Theology Quest and Questions in Tiverton
Christian people in these early days of the 21st century have a long agenda of topics which lie at the heart of their faith but which raise persistent questions. The aim of these trios is to open up the quest and engage with some of those questions. What do Christians believe, why do they believe it, and should they keep on believing it?
The intention of TQQT is therefore in part, to quote a famous phrase, ‘faith seeking understanding’, but space is also given to ‘doubt seeking understanding’. In other words, TQQT recognizes that most thoughtful people find themselves pulled both ways by faith and doubt.
A sample of the topics we have studied and discussed recently would include The cross of Christ, a study of how Mark, the first of the gospel writers, interpreted that apparently desperate and tragic finale to the life of Jesus.
Branching out into a study of how the physical evidence of medieval ecclesiastical sites and buildings in England is interpreted within their historical context by archaeologists and architectural historians, we had very popular and fascinating sessions on Faith, form and
fabric: medieval religious buildings.
Miracle stories in the New Testament make a deep impression on some Christian people and, to be frank, embarrass and bother others, so we had a good look at Jesus among the miracle workers of the world. One of those who came commented afterwards that for the first time he felt he could understand the issues involved.
We also reconsidered, with the dreadful history of Christian anti-Semitism and the Holocaust all too painfully in mind, the question of Who crucified Jesus, and why? It is a real jigsaw puzzle of data concerning the special interests of the personnel involved in Jesus’ case, as well as the purposes of those who write about what happened one dark day in April of the year AD 30. We ended up with some tentative conclusions about the provocative policies of the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate, the role of that long-lasting powerbroker, the high priest Annas, and the justification (or otherwise) of the deep-seated Jewish view of Jesus as someone who led Israel astray.
In the summer of 2018 we shall resume our studies with two more trios.
morality and the transformative gospel
David Hamer, formerly chaplain of Blundell’s School, Tiverton
Thursdays 26 April; 3 and 10 May
This trio arises out of thoughts about what happened in the General Synod of the Church of England on 15 February 2017. The Bishops delivered a report on marriage and same sex relationships. After a debate the Synod voted ‘not to take note’ of the Bishops Report – because a small majority in House of Clergy voting against ‘taking note’ of it.
Important issues were at stake: the unity of the church, faithfulness to the received faith, consistency of Christian teaching, the universal outreach of the love of Christ. Faithfulness to the gospel seems to urge us to hold to the old teachings as well as to depart from them.
So three studies: (1) Change and the changing gospel in the New Testament. (2) Christendom and the captive Gospel. (3) The Gospel message and human sexuality.
by the river: the uses of poetry for the
contemporary explorer of theology
Christopher Southgate, associate professor at
the University of Exeter
Thursdays 14, 21 and 28 June
I. Poetry and the sciences. Examples to show how poetry can operate in parallel with
scientific exploration of the world God created, and how it can function as science’s conscience, like Nathan the prophet. Poets will include Gerard Manley Hopkins, Miroslav Holub, and R S Thomas.
II. Poetry and places of doubt and pain. T S Eliot wrote that ‘humankind cannot bear very much reality’. Continuing with R S Thomas, we explore the ‘bearing’ of our un-knowing of God, and then how poems can offer a truth-telling space in which to face places of pain.
III. Poetry and liturgy. Many poets have written from the cycles of the Church’s year, and from its traditional liturgies. Drawing on the work of Malcolm Guite, Rowan Williams and Carla Grosch-Miller, we explore these possibilities, and whether poetry might take liturgy itself into truer and more honest places.
Each session will also contain readings from Rain falling by the River: new and selected poems of the spirit (Canterbury Press), and recommendations on other resources that help make contemporary poetry accessible.
TQQT is mounted by St Peter’s but not at all exclusively for St Peter’s. It takes place in the Baptist Church Hall, just opposite the church. We begin at 7pm. The cost is £6 per session (£15 for a whole trio), including the tea/coffee during the refreshment break at half-time.
David Hamer and David Catchpole
Art work: Sophie Hacker