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Hallo again to all.

Much has been made in the last few weeks about comments on doubt made by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby during an event at Bristol Cathedral. While speaking to a mixed crowd of believers and nonbelievers, Welby was asked if he ever doubted. We find ourselves relieved that our answer might have been similar to his.  Answering an audience question, he commented 'I love the Psalms. If you look at Psalm 88 (excerpted below), that's full of doubt.'

For my soul is full of troubles,
     and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the Pit;
     I am like those who have no help,
like those forsaken among the dead,
     like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
     for they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the Pit,
     in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
     and you overwhelm me with all your waves.
But I, O Lord, cry out to you;
     in the morning my prayer comes before you.
O Lord, why do you cast me off?
     Why do you hide your face from me?
Wretched and close to death from my youth up,
     I suffer your terrors; I am desperate.
Your wrath has swept over me;
     your dread assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood all day long;
     from all sides they close in on me.
You have caused friend and neighbor to shun me;
     my companions are in darkness.

Archbishop Welby went on to say 'The other day I was praying over something as I was running, and I ended up saying to God, "look this is all very well, but isn't it about time you did something, if you're there?"'

We occasionally find ourselves thinking similar thoughts, with issues large and small: shrinking numbers in the church, the Ebola epidemic which has already killed over 2600 people, the beginning of military action against IS in the Middle East, and our own personal struggles. God can seem quite far from our daily living and experience. The certainty we hear from televangelists and street preachers and see in the 'Inspirational' section of the bookstore leaves us with occasional feelings of inadequacy, perplexity, and annoyance.

'The extraordinary thing about being a Christian,' Welby added 'is that God is faithful even when we're not.'

The faith that those 'inspirational' authors and evangelists preach seems a bit precarious to us. We know of those who, when certainty failed them, found themselves floundering in their faith and their experience of the church, which requires—even demands—such certainty. Though we certainly doubt, much of our own experience of the church is in weekly worship and daily offices, that comforting routine found in the Book of Common Prayer. An order, while occasionally revised and differing slightly from place to place, remains comfortably similar and always recognizable. Through our doubt, and faith, and feelings of terror, desperation, and abandonment, the routine of worship (usually with excitement, occasionally with reluctance), week in and week out pulls us out of our selves and bespeaks our faithfulness to God, and as Archbishop Welby said, God's faithfulness to us. We often find ourselves clinging to that as a bit of a life preserver. A round ring emblazoned with the words: When in doubt, keep worshipping.

See you next week. Lex orandi, lex credendi.


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28 September 2014

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