Thursday, 20 July 2017

Greetings from Stockport

Before my sister's boyfriend takes possession of my car when I venture abroad, I'm visiting places associated with my youth.  Stockport is the nearest "crap town" to where my parents live and I've always had a soft spot for it. The impressive viaduct dominates the town, and we all knew as children (though had no proof) that it was "the largest brick structure in Europe", and that was something to be proud of. Stockport has dominated my dreams and nightmares.  My dreams have always contained very vivid, detailed architecture: brick, concrete, leaded glass, marble, dark wood panelling, stainless steel.... cinematic long-shots and close-ups, sometimes with sumptuous detail, often historically accurate; Jacobean, Victorian or post-War and mainly originating from things seen in this town. The people in the dreams are little more than shadows, it is the structures that stand out.

Perhaps that is the thing about towns; they are about structures.  They are constructed, brick on brick, and the people come and go, the bricks hang about a lot longer.

Above is an old photograph of a still recognisable site in the town: water for the mill (the start of the River Mersey), the mill, the viaduct built over the mill and gantries for the electrification of the railway line bolted onto the viaduct. Construction on top of construction.

Nothing lasts forever.  I suppose one day the viaduct will be no more and trains South from Manchester Piccadilly will take a different route. But Stockport would still be Stockport without its viaduct. One day there may be no more trains.

I do think there is a danger that we often view the Church as a town.  We wish to construct, we wish to renovate and conserve, we wish to tear down the the brutalist monstrosities of the 1960s and 70s, we want to build something great. Towns are politics made solid and they stand or fall through politics.  The Church is the Bride of the Word made flesh.  The two couldn't be more different.

The Church is living.  Living things are not constructed.  They respond to the environment they are in but their behaviour is not predicated by their nature; their site, substance or situation. Living things are far more marvellous than that. The Church is not about construction or expansion or progress or design or a better future. The Church will "outlive" time and the Church is timeless.

Too often we are seeing the Church from a political point of view and wishing to make it a better Church.  We are missing the point.  The Church cannot be made better.  You cannot design or construct a better hand, a better eye, a better nervous system, a better body.

We have lived too long under the shadow of atomism. We see things as built of small units, like bricks. We see ourselves as building and making progress.  We see ourselves as bricks in the body politic of the Church or as biological cells in the living Body of the Church.  These are wrong notions.  Each person in the Church has the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity, therefore each is Whole and not a separate entity.  Each may have a particular function, a particular task to do, but these actions are incidental to that Unity and to the love of God. God loves unconditionally.

The love many of us have for the Older Rite and for the Tradition of the Church will become as meaningless as my architecturally sumptuous dreams if we forget the reality of what the Church IS and God's desires for Her..... the desire of no less than full and total unity with Him.

What are you/we going to do about that?


Methodistical said...

No town is crap to the people who live in it. We build on what we have and what we are.

Rita said...

You are right. Please note the speech marks round "crap town". Dear Stockport was featured in a book of that name, it nearly became a badge of honour to be featured in that publication.