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Hallo again to all.

Not long ago we were standing in the parish hall after Sunday worship service, nibbling on biscuits and chatting with some of the people that we only see in that place, on Sunday after church. One young man was talking about the aspects of his job that he found difficult. He runs a small carpentry and construction business, and he was lamenting that entirely too often after he has proudly finished the renovation of a house, its occupants (his customers) get divorced.

He said that it was starting to make him anxious, knowing that when a couple contracted with him to have their house repaired and renovated, that there was a really good chance they would get divorced soon afterwards. He was sad, because he didn't want to have this effect on people, and he said that some days it distressed him enough that he thought he ought to find a new profession, one that would hurt people less.

An elderly woman, bracing herself on a tripod cane with one hand and expertly balancing a cup of tea and its saucer in her other hand, sighed and started to talk in a quiet voice that all of us had to lean inwards in order to hear. She said 'You need to understand that it wasn't the renovation that caused the divorce, it was the divorce that caused the renovation.' Perplexed by this mysterious statement, the carpenter said 'Tell us more, please please.'

Alpacas eating greener grassShe continued, noting that in her experience, couples whose relationship is in trouble develop a sense that something is wrong in their lives, and they aren't sure what it is. It's so very difficult to accept that your marriage is in trouble or your life is topsy-turvy, so people look high and low to find the problem outside themselves. If the search for the source of their malaise leads them to believe that the problem is in their house, they often decide that they can fix their hearts by fixing up their house. 'I am so miserable, but I know that a new bedroom and new window frames will solve the problem.'

We've thought a lot about what she said, and realize that we know of similar diversions with equally ineffective results. One friend tells us that he repairs his misery with 'retail therapy': when he's unhappy, he goes shopping, and usually ends up buying something that delights him but that costs more than was prudent. Another friend told us once 'When I'm miserable, I travel to someplace I've never been. But then, alas, I come home.'

Today we saw in church again a family that two or three years ago made a very public departure from our parish because of some outrage whose details we can't even remember. They believed that their family life was in ruins, and that all they had to do to fix it was to find a new parish; all of the problems that other people had caused them in our parish would go away. We're impressed with the courage that they showed by returning today, and we're really glad to see them back. Parish life isn't really any easier than family life, but it's much easier to jump parishes than to jump families or to divorce and remarry. For many centuries, leaving one parish to join another was as incomprehensible as leaving one family to join another, but today all of us have not only the freedom to find a new parish, but the freedom to switch to a Methodist or Baptist or Roman Catholic church. Oddly enough, a new parish or new denomination seems always to have just as many problems as did the old one, even if they aren't the same problems festering with the same people.

We think that the next time we catch ourselves thinking about leaving our parish because of its problems, we ought just stay and be one of its problems.

See you next week. Stubbornly.

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Last updated: 27 April 2008

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