This links with my Anglesey reflection and the question of whether the ‘mountain top’ experience, the ‘sensing or appreciation of God’ in what is around us, is enough.
Jennifer is clear ‘it is not enough’!
Jennifer spoke of her own experience - knowing her Bible well in the past but not now able to read it at length - listening to an audio Bible with OT,Psalm,Gospel, NT passages each day - taking away the necessity for her to remember where she was up to - taking her through the whole Bible story in a year - enabling her to simply listen and allow the words to speak to her in the moment or simply wash over her. The importance of allowing the Holy Spirit to be at work even in the moments when we cannot make sense of things is clear.
I have responded to the fact that for Jennifer there is great importance in relationships, friendship, conversation, laughter - this leads me to reflect further on the fact that it is the community (church) which holds the faith.
Jennifer was strongly critical of John Swinton’s notion that the person exists in the memory of God. This is an actively critical relationship with Skype conversations etc. Even within Swinton’s writing there is a critique of the idea, with God’s memory being understood as remote and in the future. For Jennifer it is clearly vital that we understand people as present and valued in the now and this is central to her relationships and work at Sandford Station.
Also in her relationships at Sandford Station Jennifer allows God space to operate. Of importance is Jennifer’s own faith in responding to what God is asking of her - instance: telling a deeply troubled lady with dementia that she cannot visit any more as it is a waste of time!
There were some interesting comments on church worship:
Holy Communion as the ‘be all and end all’, with receiving Communion being enough for the life of faith, was clearly not acceptable to Jennifer.
Familiarity is important - Jennifer herself cannot cope with ever-changing patterns of worship and not knowing what is happening. Hymns and prayers in particular are helpful in enabling people to be anchored in their experience of faith
Importance of relationships
Allowing for the fact that God and the Spirit work in ways beyond our understanding
The Bible as the word of God has significance beyond an intellectual interpretation. Simply listening and responding to what God says even through our ‘mind wandering’ is of significance. (Job’s Close Bible reading session comes to mind here).
There is value in the familiar - hymns and prayers etc. but there needs to be openness to God at work in the present and in unknown ways.