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I am a retired school teacher who worked in the field of religious education for thirty-one years, twenty-eight of those as head of a large department in a comprehensive school. I am still involved in RE through voluntary work.

Since taking early retirement, I have been involved in spiritual direction/accompaniment for seven years.

I have been involved in the Church of England for fifty years, as chorister, altar server, study group leader etc. For the past eighteen years I have been a licensed lay minister (AKA Lay Reader).

I come from the catholic tradition within the C of E and retain a love for it but many of my suppositions were challenged when I read theology for my first degree: biblical studies was taught from a liberal perspective and I started by challenging this by reading ‘sound’ books. Conservatives might accuse me of being ‘liberal’ but I disown this title. Orthodoxy is a far richer seam to mine. Both conservatives and liberals narrow it down and miss out on so much.  My former insecurity that led me to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds is now, I believe, a virtue in that I try to see both sides of an argument. The constant challenge from both perspectives keeps me from complacency and, I hope, rigid dogmatism.

My generation of undergraduates was one of the first to study ‘other’ religions. It became clear to me that what others e.g. Hindus and sufis had been grasped by was the same as that which/He who had grasped me. To assert that there is only one true religion is to fly in the face of human experience. So I was also in the first batch of RE teachers who taught multi-faith RE.

I worshipped in full-on Anglo-Catholic churches for about twenty years but this did not sit well with what I was learning. Despite the ‘slum priests’ who were our heroes, much that went on was other-worldly, not engaged in politics and social justice, did not match the liberation theology that was going on in the Roman Catholic Church. There was little, if any, engagement with feminism or gay rights. So, although I still owe much to the catholic tradition, I left the ghetto and am content (almost) to be bog-standard C. of E.

blue scarfLay Readers preach, take (non-sacramental) services, take the Blessed Sacrament to the housebound and may officiate at funerals. But our chief role is to READ. This we do while spending most of our lives in secular so we are supposed to bridge the gap between the lay and clerical worlds. While clergy serve largely within the faith community, we laity serve largely within the secular sphere and have some insight into ‘the real world’ (though there is as much unreality in postmodern Britain as there is in the churches.)

I like the old term ‘Reader’ – ”

You do not need to read Plato or Kant to be a Christian. It is not a bad idea for anyone to read Plato and Kant; it just is not necessary if to follow Christ. But someone in the church should be charged with thr responsibility of reading Plato and Kant. They should read Plato because Plato and Kant are such serious minds who did not disdain hard work necessary to discern what is true from what is false.” The Work of Theology – Stanley Hauwerwas

Since I started this blog., I have added reviews of films, plays and holidays because, as well as books, they ‘provoke’ theologising.

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  1. Hello.
    I just discovered your website, via a link from Google to your post on Joan Cooper’s Guided Meditation and the Teaching of Jesus. I would like to quote you, but I cannot find your name anywhere on your site. Forgive me if I have missed it. What is your name 🙂
    Many thanks.

  2. I cannot do that unfortunately. I take it you want to remain anonymous?

  3. Yes – there’s too much hacking and spam via the web

  4. OK. I understand. Shame though. You have worked so hard and your site is superb. Best wishes.

  5. I would be very interested to make contact with your reviewer who wrote a review on “my” volume of Essays “Theology at 16+.” The review was last year, May 1915 I think. I am working on another project which draws on some of the work we did with the Farmington/Ampleforth project a long time ago. Theology at 16+ was published in the mid ‘eighties. Your intelligent review, with its criticisms and approval, is interesting. As you will see from my website, my wife and I live in France and I work in French now – I was Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative at the European Institutions. I have added my email address and the website address to your reply section. All good wishes.
    James Barnett

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