May 18, 2013
The relationship between stillness and action
Meister Eckhart described two important aspects of our lives.
He said the outer man or woman, the bit of us that's out there in the world, visible and active, busy, doing - this outer part of us is like the swinging door.
While the inner part of us, the unseen bit which directs, is the still hinge.
I like this picture of stillness holding action... of stillness and action working in perfect harmony.
So our meditation today is watching our wonderful swinging door and our brilliantly still hinge, seeing the strength of the two together.
How's the door today?
How's the hinge?
A door without a hinge or a hinge without a door...well, neither of those makes much sense.
May 17, 2013
'A Vicar, Crucified' : the birth of
Like a surprise tidal wave through a bamboo village, Amazon is flooding the world with 'A Vicar, Crucified' twelve days ahead of publication date.
The scene is one of complete devastation...at least of my plans.
Some of you will be receiving your copies today, hopefully.
But yes, it has caught me out a bit.
Still, what you can't stop, you allow...we'll ride the strength of this wave.
The official 'launch' will still be on May 28th, in the Coronet.
But you can be an early adopter now, today even. You can say, 'Abbot Peter? I was there at the beginning, there at the birth, way before it became that fantastic TV series.'
Or something like that.
I hope you enjoy it.
May 16, 2013
And what did you do before becoming a vicar?
I've just spent some time in the Lake District.
I was leading a retreat for some extraordinary clergy.
Amid many intriguing stories, I discovered one of them had been a bouncer before becoming a priest.
So he used to keep people out... but now he's working very hard to get them in.
Wonderful man...the church is in good hands.
But if you have issues with one of his sermons, I wouldn't mention it.
He's also got a black belt at Judo.
May 13, 2013
Are we fetishizing victimhood? Sex crimes and old men with grey hair.
Dave Lee Travis, Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall, Jimmy Tarbuck and Jim Davidson used to entertain us. Now they trouble us, each arrested or exposed for sexual offences against minors or women.
But here's a thought: shouldn't we just let them be? As yet another ageing celebrity appears on our screen, and I'm losing count, one lawyer says we should stop 'fetishizing victimhood'.
So is that what we’re doing? Are we fetishizing victimhood?
The barrister in question, Barbara Hewson, goes further. In the online magazine Spiked, she says the age of consent should be 13 and we should stop the 'persecution of old men' in what she calls a 'prurient charade'. She also believes complainants should no longer receive anonymity, and that after a certain length of time, prosecution should become impossible.
In response, and perhaps predictably, the NSPCC describes her views as 'outdated and simply ill-informed' and says to hear them 'from a highly experienced barrister simply beggars belief'.
Hewson is forthright, however. She says that 'touching a 17-year-old's breast, kissing a 13-year-old, or putting one's hand up a 16-year-old's skirt' are not crimes comparable to gang rapes and murders and 'anyone suggesting otherwise has lost touch with reality'.
The NSPCC calls such crimes 'incredibly serious' and warns against trivialising the impact of these offences for victims, which 'all but denies they have in fact suffered abuse at all.' They also state that lowering the age of consent could put more young people at risk.
I've never met Ms Hewson, so cannot speak of her. But generally, people's attitudes towards children are the attitudes they experienced themselves as children. So if someone says, 'Oh, for goodness sake, children should just stop complaining and get on with it!' that's probably the message they heard when they were small.
The voice of the authority figure is then internalised by them and it becomes their voice, their feeling and the message they pass on.
This brings a strange outcome: stalked by their own unresolved issues, their own unexamined issues, those who were victims themselves when they were small can make life very hard for other victims.
Standing back a little, it can appear that it's the 1970's on trial more than any particular individual. 'Things were different then,' as someone said to me. 'You can't apply the same rules as you would now.'
Go down this path and the prosecution of 'old men' can appear rather meaningless, because yes, things have changed, the main difference being the culture of hypervigilance we now live in.
'Inappropriate' behaviour towards children sets communal alarm bells ringing, while new protective fences abound: 'Under no circumstances must a volunteer who has not obtained a CRB Disclosure... be left unsupervised with children,' states the Department for Education guidelines.
There's no guarantee a CRB check will prevent abusers working with children, of course...the smartest will not appear on police records. And there's plenty of smart out there.
But with the Children Act of 1989 a landmark in child protection, it's certainly different from the 70's. But is it better?
I say this because there's a deep sense of loss in all of this, and it's felt by many. As former head teacher Sue Palmer says: 'There's a sense of everyone keeping an eye on everyone else. People can become paranoid - they can be frightened of putting a plaster on a child's knee. On one hand we're stopping occasional awful things from happening, but on the other hand, it's breaking down human interaction when it comes to caring for children.'
All sadly true. 'Occasional awful things' do bring legislative over-reaction, life-denying paranoia and absurd behaviour.
But unlike Barbara Hewson, we won't demonise children in our discomfort, won't muffle their inconvenient voices.
And neither will we turn away from the abuse of adult power, those who hold every card while the young person holds none - even if the suspects now have grey hair.
May 12, 2013
The First Wound
It's quite a shock when you get down to the bare bones
Strip everything else away
And realise what is at the source of your wound
Deep deep down
Probably beyond any conscious memory
I find this
'I am wrong for just being'
Not truth of course
When I was born I was unmarked
Pure, perfect and wonderful
I knew the truth that 'I am'
But the little girl cast into a brutal world
Soon lost touch with that truth
And she grew up with the lie
And that lie still causes her pain
That lie still holds her back
Contaminates her relationships with others
Weakens her belief in her own goodness
It prevents her from flying free
When I am able to quiet my soul
In the stillness
In the silence
Beyond the chains of time
And then I hear these words
'You are an eagle my child,
Stop scratching in the dirt,
Time to take to the skies'
May 11, 2013
The difference between love and desire
What's the difference between love and desire?
They say that desire will cling for eternity...but love can let go tomorrow.
There's a thought.
If it's true, it's because love is confident about the future, hopeful.
While desire is frightened of the future...and so feels the need to cling.
Our meditation today is towards discerning love and desire in ourselves, the confident and the clinging, the hopeful and the frightened.
They may be hard to separate, lookalikes at first glance, as when we first meet identical twins.
But after a while, we see them apart, for they're quite different and not the same at all.
Love is an adventurer...desire, a parasite.
May 09, 2013
Our murderous hearts: our fascination with murder mystery
My first agent said to me, 'If you can't think of anything else, Simon, write a murder mystery - people can't get enough of those.'
And he was right - we do have a passion for a bit of blood and gore, to the extent that crime fiction, as a genre, outsells every other field in the world of publishing.
Residents of London's Whitechapel area can't move for the numerous 'Ripper Tours', and where would our TV evenings be without those detectives on the case? We really do love a murder, preferably five. But why? The clues are there.
Fact: TV is murder and without it, there'd be some very large holes in the schedules. The Killing, Lewis, Sherlock Holmes, Marple, Poirot, Columbo, Foyle, The Bridge, (the filming of the new series just finished) Scott and Bailey, Jonathan Creek, Wycliffe, Cracker, Frost, Morse, Endeavour...
Apologies if I've missed your favourite, but there isn't room on the internet for every fictional detective or for every series built around butchery and annihilation - and that's because we enjoy them so much; a large supply because there's so much demand.
We get home after a hard day's work and like nothing better than a good murder. And increasingly, led by the Scandinavians, we're up for the grosser and the grizzlier sorts. So again the question: why?
We’re intrigued by the psychology, of course. We're all amateur psychologists these days, avid people-watchers, and to be able to declare half way through the story 'It's the postman' and be right - well, this is a huge feather in our cap, and can lead to extreme cockiness.
Agatha Christie understood this interest, which she expresses through a character in in her story 'Zero Hour':
'When you read the account of a murder - or, say, a fiction story based on murder - you usually begin with the murder itself. That's all wrong. The murder begins a long time beforehand. A murder is the culmination of a lot of different circumstances, all converging at a given moment, at a given point. People are brought into it from different parts of the globe and for unforeseen reasons. The murder itself is the end of the story. It's Zero Hour.'
As Christie reminds us, a murder mystery is about more than the murder itself. It's about the before - and, I'd suggest, the after; about cause and effect, about the people caught up in its web, their psychological frailties and wretched secrets exposed in the harsh light of investigation. In a game of cat and mouse with the writer, the reader tests their psychological skills, weighing each glance, each clue, as events unfold around the zero hour.
But crime fiction holds a yet deeper fascination. It remains something of a parvenu on the literary scene. The genre emerged in the 19th century after Edgar Allen Poe's 'Murders in the Rue Morgue' was published in 1841, with Auguste Dupin as the brilliant sleuth.
In England, the genre was popularised by Dickens' friend Wilkie Collins with titles like The Woman in White (1860) and perhaps his tour de force, The Moonstone (1868).
But while murder as fiction is new, it taps into a well-established interest in gory death. Long before crime writers emerged from the plotting shadows, crucifixions, witch drownings, beheadings and hangings could all draw a good crowd, appreciative chatter and dark fascination.
The 16-year-old Thomas Hardy witnessed the hanging of the unfortunate Martha Brown in 1856. He later based his novel 'Tess of the D'Ubervilles' on her story and was still writing about the event in his eighties: 'What a fine figure she showed against the sky,' he wrote, seventy years after the event, 'as she hung in the misty rain, and how the tight black silk gown set off her shape as she wheeled half-round and back.'
Charles Dickens also witnessed public hangings, and though he campaigned strongly against them, spoke of the 'fascination of the repulsive, something most of us have experienced.'
Death has always been entertainment and strangely uplifting. EL Doctorow, the American author, compares murder to religion for its ability to stir: 'Murders,' he writes, 'are exciting and lift people into a heart-beating awe as religion is supposed to do, after seeing one in the street young couples will go back to bed and make love, people will cross themselves and thank God for the gift of their stuporous lives, old folks will talk to each other over cups of hot water with lemon because murders are enlivened sermons to be analysed and considered and relished, they speak to the timid of the dangers of rebellion, murders are perceived as momentary descents of God and so provide joy and hope and righteous satisfaction to parishioners, who will talk about them for years afterward to anyone who will listen.'
Doctorow brilliantly describes the numinous quality to murder, echoing observations by the philosopher Edmund Burke. It was in 1756 that the Burke reflected on our love of horror in paintings, a horror he called 'The Sublime.' He noted the human fascination with depictions of nature at its most terrifying and intimidatory, storms and avalanches, scenes which would terrify us in real life.
Things 'dark, uncertain and confused,' he wrote, inspire horror in us - but it's pleasurable horror, experienced in both fear and attraction, because we know we are safe. We're taken to the brink of being destroyed, hung over the edge of the dark abyss - but we're taken there on our sofas, with popcorn to hand and the remote control (and possibly a friend) close by.
This is 'The Sublime' and the place to which murder mystery takes us, where we meet the terrible in our slippers and find it rather fine.
And in the eye of the storm, at the centre of the chaos, like a lighthouse in the raging seas, is the detective, the one who must lead us home to a place of explanation, justice and restoration. As the popular crime writer PD James observes, 'What the detective story is about is not murder but the restoration of order.'
Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe is such a man. He remains a giant among literary detectives, embodying the author's conception of the private investigator as 'a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man.'
He continues: 'He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honour - by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and good enough for any world. I do not care much about his private life; he is neither a eunuch nor a satyr; I think he might seduce a duchess and I am quite sure he would not spoil a virgin; if he is a man of honour in one thing, he is that in all things.'
The dishonour of this dark world is set against the honour of the detective, almost a Christ-like figure, you might say. So it's perhaps not surprising that the murder mystery genre has attracted so many religious versions.
A dedicated website (www.detecs.org) claims there are 280 clergy detectives in print, with such tantalising titles as 'Clerical errors,' 'The Rosary Murders' and 'Reverend Randolph and the unholy bible.'
To these might be added my own recently published contribution to the genre, 'A Vicar, Crucified,' - the first in a new contemporary murder mystery series featuring Abbot Peter.
The most famous of God's gumshoes, however, is probably GK Chesterton's Father Brown, who famously has a face 'as round and dull as a Norfolk dumpling,' but is, of course, much shrewder than he looks.
Alongside him in fame is Ellis Peters' Cadfael, a 12th century monk of Shrewsbury, popularised by the TV series; while Peter Tremayne's Sister Fidelma is one of a long list of crime-busting nuns of a mostly medieval vintage, each trying to save the world in their own small way.
Traditionally, the appeal of a murder mystery is a chair with three legs: character, plot and research. How do I mean?
It's best if we enjoy the company of the detective, (or the relationship between them, if there’s more than one of them) - and find them surrounded by intriguing and believable characters.
It's also good if the plot is possible and honestly told, without absurd rabbits being pulled dramatically from the hat by the writer in the last chapter, cheating the readers' patient powers of detection.
And finally, we enjoy being taken into a world or setting which is new to us and about which we learn as the story unfolds. What special knowledge is on display here? Colin Dexter, for instance, creator of Morse, leads us inside the beautiful but secretive walls of an Oxford college; CJ Sansom, through the investigative lawyer Martin Shardlake, reveals life - and death - in Tudor England, away from the well-documented Court intrigues; while Patricia Cornwell, through Kate Scarpetta, blinds us with forensic knowledge and tasty Italian recipes.
But I'd suggest a fourth leg to the crime fiction chair: contemplation. The best detective stories are contemplations on the human condition in their social setting. America may have adored itself in the 1950's, but Raymond Chandler did not share in this love-in; instead, he described 'the darkness, degeneracy, depravity and sheer nastiness' that accompanied economic growth after the Depression: the medium is the message and in murder mystery, the setting is in some ways the murderer.
And so the question: is a murderer always guilty? It's interesting, for instance, how often Sherlock Holmes makes his own decision about the guilt or otherwise of the murderer. He doesn't always hand them over to the police. Doyle was asking us to consider not only what people do, but why they do it. The black and white nature of his stories extends only as far as the ink on the page.
So murder mystery is more than a one-trick pony, with only the grand reveal in the drawing room - suspects in a semi-circle - to entertain. There's the journey towards the zero hour, and the consequences of that moment for those who live on. Who will survive the exposing light of the investigation with all secrets made known? How will they cope as murder brings the Angel of Judgement to their door? Would anyone of us survive?
It's nice to experience judgement with a cup of cocoa to hand.
On the face of it, of course, there's a disconnect here. Hard core pornography is sometimes criticised for the effects it can have on the behaviour of those who use it. Yet crime fiction - in which writers display endless ingenuity in devising techniques for killing people, and then describe the cruelty with shocking realism - is considered entirely healthy.
Pornography found in our teenager's bedroom is probably not something we celebrate. Yet who wouldn't be pleased to see them reading a good murder mystery on holiday? For some reason we don't immediately think, 'I've helped create a psycho!'
But then crime fiction is a medium which transcends itself, and deals with the biggest two questions we face: what is life and what is death?
That's why murder mystery is sublime.
Ten (no eleven) Recommended reads:
The Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco
The Moonstone - Wilkie Collins
Smiley's People - John le Carre (It's a sort of murder mystery, allow me.)
The Virgin in Ice - Ellis Peters
Devices and Desires - PD James
The Suspicions of Mr Whicher - Kate Summerscale
Five Little Pigs - Agatha Christie
The Hound of the Baskervilles - Conan Doyle
Dissolution - CJ Sansom
Farewell, my Lovely - Raymond Chandler
And best of all, A Vicar Crucified - Simon Parke
May 08, 2013
When our certainties run out
It's possible today that your certainties may run out for a moment.
Does this ever happen to you?
You're busy being certain about one thing and then another thing, and then suddenly...there's a gap.
Gaps between your certainties sometimes arise; those quiet unfilled moments, when a different voice is heard, faintly.
And we're sad, or angry, or disturbed in some way. Perhaps heartened, suddenly hopeful?
It's like the echo of a cry of someone who lives further down the valley, distant.
We try and avoid such moments, try to keep them filled with the hard rock of certainty.
Like cracks between large paving stones, they're the place where life can grow...where our truer voice with its truer concerns can be heard, faintly.
So our meditation today is towards those quiet, unfilled moments, when we hear a truer voice between our frightened certainties.
It's about being open to them, not stamping on them, for there's nothing to fear in this listening.
It's like a crack between paving stones where plants grow, where life comes up for light and air.
A distant voice from across the valley of our lives...
May 06, 2013
The journey has many moods.
It has no plan,just direction.
Nothing is assured, but in some sense, everything is promised.
We are never more than half-knowing.
But we can still be whole-hearted.
We'll be more concerned about creating space within, rather than making huge strides without.
(Strides without space are not worth very much and take us into the exhausting swamp lands.)
And so it is we keep going towards the horizon, resting occasionally.
We allow our tears, note our fear and greet truth when she meets us by the side of the road, however inconvenient her timing.
And along the way, and this is so, we become people in whom God dances.
May 03, 2013
Disliking people, it's our first love
The game today is not to identify with your negative emotions.
This will be hard because we are very fond of them. They are our first love.
We get up in the morning and enjoy disliking people... and find huge pleasure in finding someone else who dislikes them in the same way. We can become a Dislike Club, and we buy newspapers that share our dislikes.
Yet it is not your true self who dislikes, but your unexamined past.
The turbulence that you like to load onto others in dislike does not come from any authentic place within. So you do not need to identify with these emotions. You have the right not to be negative.
We identify with negative emotions more than anything else. The list of negative emotions is not a short one. Suspicion, vanity, resentment, self-pity, anxiety, self-justification, fear and judgement all draw us into their compelling web.
Yet not one of these emotions was there when we were born. Which begs a significant question: where have they come from?
Over time, we have acquired them without knowing. We have absorbed attitudes around us.
These negative emotions are illusory layers of understanding imposed on us by others, and have nothing to do with who we are.
The negative emotion is not you. You have a right not to be negative.
You have a right to reclaim your birthright.
You have a right to be free.
(This is an extract from my book 'The Journey Home', previously published as 'The Beautiful Life.')
May 01, 2013
Sometimes we're in a battle which we lose; you may be losing one now.
We may not like to call it a battle, but that's what it is, our strong opinion against theirs, our hopes against their (unreasonable/mistaken/hostile) attitude.
If we are less powerful than the other person, we may need to accept defeat.
Though we use that word only briefly, allowing it to die on our lips...it has no eternal substance.
For in our acceptance of what is, in our arrival at this place, we are victors in life, we are healed.
As our over-heated ego cools, we reclaim the moment, reclaim ourselves.
We walk away from the fool's game of attaching sense of self to outcomes.
And we leave nothing of the bitter or the struggle lodged inside.
It will only fester and slow-drip poison our body there.
So sometimes our one-minute meditation is a leaning into acceptance, into the allowance of a deeper unfolding - and into the recovery of our soul in this sometimes difficult world.
April 29, 2013
Revelations on Portland
I was on the Isle of Portland this weekend, the southern most tip of Dorset.
It was an anniversary weekend.
Almost an island, semi-detached, linked to the mainland only by the narrowest spit of land, now a road, with the smooth-pebbled Chesil Beach to my right as I arrive, and the harbour - one of the largest man-made harbours in the world - to my left.
Water, water, everywhere, seaping, surging, holding, crashing against this rock outpost on England's southern coast.
You may remember the harbour being used in the Olympics, sailing.
But there are layers of history here which go way beyond the summer of 2012.
And this was the thing, really. It was time I most felt as I stretched my legs in some wonderful runs and walks on Portland.
Time. How long have you got?
It was a large naval base for both the world wars...and going back a little further, a huge quarry until the early 1900's, home of Portland limestone, used to re-build London after the Great Fire of 1666.
Christopher Wren chose it for St Paul's Cathedral, that was some heavy carrying...and then later, it helped build Buckingham Palace.
Portland has not stayed at home down the eras and it tells of many.
Here I find forts built in the Napoleonic era, to keep out the French.
And peeling back a layer or two more, I stumble upon Portland Castle, built in the reign of Henry 8th, to.... keep out the French.
Spotting a theme?
The Romans were also here, they were everywhere, but they weren't keeping out the French because by that time, they were the French.
So many different feet here before me, so many lives, so many ghosts.
But really, this is all modern history compared to the coast line, part of a Jurassic stretch formed by 180 million years of time, 180 million years of sedimentary and igneous moments, millenia upon millenia of slow formation.
Time. Because perhaps more than the striking views of this rough coast line, my strongest sense is one of time.
I felt so nouveau as I walked, so very Simon-come-lately as I ran, humbled by the huge stretch of history beneath my feet, my little wisdom somehow the size and substance of a busy little gnat.
And joyful time.
I felt the big joy of being allowed time, just a little, hardly any at all, so brief - but time to play and adventure before joining the rock formations that make our paths.
And what was it? Challenging time, I suppose, though that's not quite the word.
I can't quite find the word, but that's OK.
It is call in the wind, a gusting north-easterly, to look after time, the time I'm allowed, carrying it like something precious in my hands...I'm given time to look after, like I might be given a child.
She's placed in my care for a moment.
Before time makes history of me.
April 25, 2013
Oliver Cromwell's quote of the day
Oliver Cromwell, like Margeret Thatcher, tends either to be revered or loathed.
In the 1650's, he was England's only interruption in the rule of kings and queens, after Charles 1st was executed.
Cromwell led the attempt at a Republic...it ended in tears.
You will make your own mind up about the man.
Speckled, like Margaret.
But today I'm reflecting on his words before the crucial battle of Naseby, which turned the Civil War away from the Monarchist Royalists.
There were problems for the Parliamentarian side, which Cromwell fought for. But he was confident:
'God would, by things that are not, bring to naught things that are.'
It was about the forces around us, which seem so solid and bleak, melting in the face of something we're unaware of.
It's about resources inside which we know little of.
Its about the invalidity of appearances, however frightening.
It's about the future not existing...but unfolding from the secret places of now.
It's against negative imaginings...and for the quiet, if hidden, candle of hope.
And for those reasons, it's my quote of the day.
April 23, 2013
Why you never want to meet the author
Some people read a book and want to meet the author.
This is always a mistake of course.
You may really like the book, but it's best left there.
The author themselves will be a terrible disappointment.
Remember they've spent hours behind closed doors creating something a great deal better than themselves - more clever, more humorous, more wise, more rounded.
They've been able to edit their lines in a way they cannot edit their lives, where there are numerous typos.
Their lives are in the same tangle as yours, probably worse.
And probably a great deal more insecure.
Writers only write to pretend control over a life they can't control. They are small gods on the page as they plot...but away from the page, they lose the plot on a regular basis.
Without a pen in their hands or a keyboard to bash, they may be completely incoherent.
It would be a great deal more rewarding, more uplifting to meet your plumber or newsagent.
Less needy, pretending less.
As I say, some people read a book and wish to meet the author.
I'm not one of them, because in their work, I've already met them at their best.
From here on, it's all down hill.
That said, and I know this hasn't been a great advert, there's a small book launch for my new murder mystery 'A Vicar, Crucified' on Tuesday May 28th, from 6.30pm in The Coronet on London's Holloway Road.
Can you make it?
You're most welcome to come along, grab a book, meet me...and be massively disappointed.
You know you want to.
April 22, 2013
Concerning your future
As you may know, I believe in meditations of the one-minute variety.
I believe in putting meditation into the warp and weft of our life, rather than imagining it as something we need to visit an expert for.
Or spend six months in the Himalayas to truly discover.
Meditation is not an exotic technique requiring years of cross-legged training.
We don't need a guru to explain to us how to blow our nose, and neither do we need one to help us meditate.
We just need a keen awareness of when our moment in the day has arrived. By the kettle? On the bus? In the park? Quiet before you leave for work? In the waiting room? More than one of the above?
Wherever, we seize the moment, use the moment and become apprentice meditators....the best sort.
And of course more than one moment in the day is better, just as washing our hands more than once a day is better.
Grime builds, inner and outer.
With meditation, small and often is the way.
So today, in your moments, reflect without fuss on your relationship with the future.
You have a moment, and this is what you do. Now even? I mean, where are you?
We reflecting on the future.
Because have you ever listened to a child planning their development into adulthood?
If you have, you probably smiled kindly but inwardly laughed at this future speculation.
A child does not know what it's like to be an adult, how could they? And neither do they need to know.
Adult life will arrive in its own good time and arrive all the more freely for not being planned from a place of ignorance.
So our little meditation today is concerned with gently unhooking ourselves from our plans for the future.
(We may hook ourselves up again in a short while, but that's OK, it's just about the moment, this simple pattern-changing moment.)
So our little meditation today is concerned with gently unhooking ourselves from our plans for the future.
Imagine the unhooking...just for a moment.
Because like the child, we can't know about what doesn't exist and neither do we need to know.
We simply trust the unfolding.
Return to this later...unhook again...unhook better...
April 19, 2013
What's in a name?
Tomorrow I have the great honour of hosting a Naming ceremony for a little girl.
She's to be called Alice.
So I've been thinking about what I might say, and here's a rough guide.
Because her name matters, as does your own....
A name for a small child is important.
Our name gives us an identity, sets a boundary around us. From here on, people can support and nurture our soul, but cannot trespass upon it.
Our name separates us from our parents, from our relations, and as time goes by, even from our friends; it declares us to be unique, declares our thoughts and feelings to be unique.
And because today we give Alice a name, and it isn't ours, we will allow her tantrums, as slowly she finds her voice.
And because she now has a name, and it isn't ours, we will allow her the secrets she must keep from us as she grows.
And because she has a name, and it isn't ours, we will not cripple her with our dreams, but allow her to feel and follow her own.
A name for a child is important; it defines the child from others, sets boundaries around holy ground, sacred ground, where no one can trespass.
And her name is Alice Laura Lacey
And in time, she will give her name it's own colours.
In time, our name is not mere boundary, but a creation of our own.
For although at the start, our name defines us, much more profoundly, as one year becomes another, and we grow into responsibility, we define our name, like a blank canvass in a painter's hands.
Our hope and prayer is that as she grows, Alice Laura Lacey is free to paint well, to colour well, to paint with passion, with courage and with hope, free to define her name wonderfully...the name given to her this day.
May life bless her and keep her all her days, and keep her in that freedom.