I didn't know that shark soup was tasteless...no...not the food we enjoy here but a piece of useless information from Stephen Fry's latest tweet. Apparently it has to be flavoured with chicken stock. The food for the conference is excellent - very fresh and tasty.
Anyhow, things are going great here in Saint John's. Met a friend on the conference with whom I studied in London back in the 1970s! Amazing. She's now a priest of six small village churches in Bucks. Been good to begin the catchup. The range of churches represented here is mind blowing - from Coventry Cathedral to ...well...Saint Nicholas' on the Lisburn Road, I suppose. So many experiences to be shared in between the excellent talks and workshops.
And the community worship last night was powerful as we gathered round the table for Holy Communion and John Bell led us in thinking about table fellowship. It tied in with one of the papers presented earlier in the day when we were thinking about the ordering of church space and the opportunities presented when we are forced to think about what is really important. Lessons for us here as in Saint Nicholas' we'll be displaced persons - on pilgrimage- when the building repairs begin just after Easter.
There was also a very useful analysis of the use of Media Arts...so much is taken for granted as good - because it has come from the business world... Some of what happens on screens is positively harmful to fellowship (loss of eye contact) and to appreciating the context of the words. Only 32 words per screen so the whole song with background - author, scripture context etc is lost. Songwriters are now being asked to use 32 word maximum...media driven liturgy!! There is also an interruption to the architectural features which were designed with a particular message. Now the focus is on a screen that detracts from the sense of transcendance in the older buildings. This is not so in purpose built contemporary structures. The speaker acknowledged that wise use of Media Art is well documented but many places are uncritical. When pictures and spoken words create overload....the spoken word is ignored!! Also the choice of pictures influences the permanent memory of text - and he did query why, even in the Psalms of lament you'll not find any "offensive" images selected for congregational viewing. The speaker is doing Doctoral research at Saint John's - will be interesting to read the published work.
Time would fail me now to reflect on the responsorial singing of scripture - psalms, canticles etc. There is a wide variety of material available which helps people fix the texts in their memories through repetition and melody. A long and useful bibliography will provide food for thought for weeks to come!
This is a stimulating week - and this morning we're going to think more about Singing Scripture with John Bell. Conflict for me comes in the afternoon when you have to make a choice between a number of very attractive workshops - two of the four I'd really like to attend: Cyber help for Scripture and Liturgy by a Milltown Professor and also Anne Dyer's "Come and see..." on the use of the fine, contemporary and folk arts in helping people to be open to God. Anne is Warden of Cranmer Hall where I'm staying... Of course, that means that I'm not even able to consider "Scripture, Liturgy and Hymnody" or the use of the formative texts in the seasonal liturgies...
Earlier in the afternoon, ron anderson from Minnesota will lecture on Scripture, Liturgy and Sacrament...the only trouble with his session is that it comes directly after lunch...concentration more difficult at that time of the day.
As for the morning choices....eight very attractive papers...it will be stick a pin in the page decision, I think...
The cathedral clock has struck seven so I'm off now to wander around for a while and take even more photographs....digital cameras tend towards greed in image collection!