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Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Jayber Crow - sitting in church

Rereading Wendell Berry's wonderful novel Jayber Crow over Easter, I identified to an extent that scared me with the account by Jayber Crow of how he relates to the church services he attended as a byproduct of his work as church handyman and cleaner.
In general, I weathered the worst sermons pretty well. They had the great virtue of causing my mind to wander. Some of the best things I have ever thought of I have thought of during bad sermons.  ... What I liked least about the service itself was the prayers: what I liked far better was the singing . Not all of the hymns could move me. I never liked " Onward Christian Soldiers" or "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Jesus' military career has never compelled my belief. I liked the sound of people singing together, whatever they sang, but some of the hymns reached into me all the way to the bone: "Come thou fount of every blessing," "Rock of Ages," "Amazing Grace," "O God, Our help in Ages Past."...
I thought that some of the hymns bespoke the true religion of the place. The people didn't really want to be saints of self-deprivation and hatred of the world. They knew that they world would sooner or later deprive them of all it had given them, but they still liked it. What they came together for was to acknowledge, just by coming, their losses and failures and sorrows, their need for comfort, their faith always needing to be greater, their wish (in spite of all words and acts to the contrary) to love one another and to forgive and to be forgiven, their need for one another's help and company and divine gifts, their hope and experience of love surpassing death, their gratitude.  (p162-163)

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