Through various blog links I stumbled upon an interesting interview with Rowan Williams. If you spend any time on TF you know I am an avid – though novice – reader of the Archbishop. I wouldn’t call it a scholarly investment; I simply find him provoking and refreshing in equal measure. Williams helps get me excited about theology and the church again when I start losing hope in either (his sermons particularly).
The interview touches on the “accessibility” – or relevance – of the church in our contemporary setting. While there is certainly food for discussion on that topic, his comments are illuminating about the “downward spiral” of having low expectations of young people. I see this in the classroom almost every week: so little has been expected of my students in the past that I fear many of them expect little of themselves.
Ian Hislop: How do you balance that attempt to be of the age, to be accessible, and yet not be banal.
Archbishop of Canterbury: The point is often being confident enough about what you are inviting people into, which is not simply an entertainment but a journey and process of change. ….I went with the family to Taize for a few days in the summer…. one of the things I shall remember for a long time is the sound of 5,000 teenagers being quiet. That was an environment that didn’t make any concessions to entertaining anyone. It assumed that if you were there, you wanted to be taken a bit deeper. That’s the crucial thing.
IH: I remember being told by my teenagers that Church was boring and thinking, good it’s meant to be boring. You need a lot more boring in your life and in the middle of it, you’ll find something.
ABC: I have to confess that has been in the past one of my regular confirmation sermons. Get used to it. It’s not always going to be fun. Life isn’t always going to be fun and there’s something to be said for sitting things out.
IH: This particularly applies to young people…there is a tendency to assume they have no attention span….
ABC: We set our assumptions and expectations very low…. It’s a downward spiral.
IH: Keeping it simple may not be good enough, enriching enough.
ABC: That’s right. While I hope that I don’t set out to be boring in church – shut up everyone! - I also hope that when I stand up and perform the liturgy, I am doing something that is not just reflecting to them what they already know and what they feel comfortable with. That somehow there is a journey forward to be undertaken. We expect people to grow…. if we don’t provide an environment where people grow we only have ourselves to blame. Very often what the Church past and present has been in danger of doing is offering people a thinned down experience whereas I would like to say it is utterly the opposite.