Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the Pope’s horses and all the Pope’s men (and women),
couldn’t put Humpty together again.
For good and ill, the era we know as the Reformation has hugely shaped us. It involved immense fragmentation: both a breaking down and a breaking open. Like Humpty Dumpty, that which went before had ‘a great fall’ and could not be put together again as it had been. Especially within Christian life, it has thus bequeathed so many features we simply take for granted. Some have lasting value. Others are much more questionable. This includes the very existence of different Christian traditions, in what, from the 19th century, we have termed denominations. This was not, of course, an intended outcome. Indeed, it would have seemed anathema to any Reformer, as well as to the Church of Rome. Yet it is part of our Reformation inheritance. So what do we make of this, for God’s continuing mission? What is worth keeping? How might we move on together?
This reflection is not a traditional potted history. Nor does it seek to draw us into comparisons of our different Christian traditions, never mind reassemble past dynamics and rhetoric. Instead, it outlines briefly both vital differences and also important similarities between that age and our own. In doing so, it identifies a number of negative features which often mar our churches and world. It also suggests a number of positive features which can heal and take us forward. Hopefully, in the contemporary spirit of ‘receptive ecumenism’, these may then provide a basis for assessing which Reformation gifts we will own together and which we will leave behind. What else, we might then ask, do we need for our journey onwards today?...
Sheer drama is one of the most significant aspects of historic Christianity's marking of Holy Week. To share in it is to share in a mighty eternal stage-play. This is no mere re-enactment of events long ago, as if the Church were an ecclesiastical form of the Sealed Knot. Instead, appropriately engaged with, it is a re-membering and re-imagining of love's ultimacy in the face of the forces of human abuse, deceit and betrayal. Theologically speaking, as a drama to enter into, Holy Week is a powerful confirmation that it is not us who find or save ourselves and our world. Rather it is God, the ultimate power of love, who does the work and turns the world upside down. The call and challenge to the Church in any age is to help make this drama live in any context.
This year, Holy Week in the parish of St Luke Toowoomba began with a wonderful celebration of Palm Sunday, with a delightful blessing of palms around our soon-to-be-completed labyrinth, a lively procession, dancers from our Living Dance school partners, a loving celebration of communion, and joyful singing from one of The Glennie School's choirs. Perhaps the most powerful part of our gathering however was the dramatic presentation at the heart of our Ministry of the Word. Instead of a reading of the lengthy Passion Gospel, and a brief address, several parish members each took a key role (money-changer, Simon Peter, Pilate, Mary Magdalene etc) and told their own story of what they had seen, felt and experienced in Jesus last days. This spoke wonderfully to everyone as it brought the story, and the whole liturgy of Holy Week, alive in new ways. It was an encouragement to us all to continue to look at how we stage, dramatise, and enflesh the Gospel at all times, as well as a beautiful journey into the great tragi-comedy (in the deepest sense) of Holy Week.
Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.