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Watercolour of an irisHallo again to all.

Once upon a time, we were in a drawing class at school. Much of the detail of that class has faded, but what remains is a clear instruction given as we began learning how to sketch:

'Don't look at your drawing. Keep your eyes on the object'.

We remember still the sense of shock. How on earth were we to draw anything accurately if we couldn't look at our sketch? How could what we drew bear any resemblance to the object drawn? There was nothing for it but to position our pencil on the paper and begin. We had to force our eyes to stay forward, resisting the overpowering urge to look down, and trust that our fingers were in some manner sketching the shape and line of a long elegant iris in a vase.

After a terribly long five minutes or so, we were told to put down our pencils and look at what we'd done. Instead of a mass of confused lines and scribbles — what we were certain we had drawn — on our paper was indeed an iris remarkably true in proportion and line to the flower in the vase. It was a stunning discovery. The injunction has held through our lives whenever we've had occasion to sketch: 'Don't look at your work: look at the object'.

This occurred to us in the past few days of this hot northern-hemisphere midsummer, when tempers are cranky, patience is short, there is much horror in the headlines, and a sort of continuing 'tension headache', as adverts have it, in our beloved Communion. In the States, there have been a series of quadrilles of bishops, some like-minded, others brought together for their unlikemindedness, all in an attempt to get to grips with the response of the Episcopal Church in the USA to the Windsor Report, the Nottingham meeting, the latest reference of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Communion, the preparation for the General Convention next summer, or ... and so on. We don't mean to belittle good and worthy attempts at sitting down and attempting to reason together, but there are times when we grow utterly weary with the string of meetings, reports, communiqués, press releases, statements, and denunciations that have flooded the Anglican Communion in the last few years, mostly about questions of sexuality and authority.

We've imagined, in the last few days, a drawing class filled with earnest students, all of whom are looking at their sketch pads rather than the object they were to draw, busily correctly lines with their rubbers (erasers), redrawing proportions, shortening here and lengthening there, all without reference to the object in front of them. When one does that — look mostly or solely at one's work — the drawing comes out all wrong. One creates one's own idealised and utterly unrealistic drawing of [whatever], and even with all the work and good will in the world, it doesn't resemble the thing to be drawn. It may be interesting, pretty, or clever in its own way: but it's neither accurate nor real.

We wonder if there's too much of this going on at present in the church. We're focussed on the questions of authority, issues of obedience, matters of conscience — all of which have their proper place in the scheme of things — but we worry that we're losing the object in front of us: advancing the Gospel of our Lord. Even if the unthinkable happens (well, not unthinkable, for it's been thought and perhaps even anticipated by some) and the Anglican Communion 'dissolves', the Church of Christ will go on. Our belief in a wise and loving God will sustain us; our willingness to live our lives in accordance with Christ, as best we can, will continue; our commitment to loving the Lord with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind will remain unswerving. Surely that is the object in front of us. Once we take our eyes away from it, we're lost in the world of our own creation.

Eyes forward, dear friends.

See you next week.

Cynthia's signature
Brian's signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 24 July 2005

A thin blue line
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