Sunday, January 30, 2011
Fresh back from a fortnight of summer holiday at the beach my first official 'work' function was to attend (and participate in a modest way) the Opening of the Legal Year service at St Paul's Cathedral here in Melbourne. Assorted church dignatories processed in behind the cathedral choir with the congregation consisted mainly of be-wigged judges, lawyers and various members of the legal profession as well as some 'legislators'. I've attended this service a number of times over the past decade or so. In fact a few years back I was the guest preacher -surely one of the most intimidating congregations your average preacher is likely to experience! Sadly the service conflicts with the secular opening of the Legal Year at Parliament House and the Catholic service at St Patrick's. I understand there is an Orthodox equivalent as well. Time the church ecumenical got its act together on this one! Anyway, the service itself was very formal and dignified, as one might expect, the preaching was erudite but accessible - all good. But it was yet another experience, which I have had with increasing frequency, of anachronicity (if there is such a word), when I wonder what I am doing attending this or that civic function as a church representative. It's not that I have anything at all against praying for those who work in our core social institutions, commending them to God. But the whole 'feel' of such an event was of a bygone age when the church was at the centre of culture and blessed and prayed for the communities life (all good) but also received some sort of validation of its own role and relevance. There can be a sort of social co-dependency develops which the church, at least, needs to wean itself off, in order to re-position itself on the edges of culture, where often, it has done its most faithful work.