Staff gathered on the Monday before school resumed last week and began another term of work together in Chapel. Why is that our practice? Well, there are many reasons to do with who we are at Westminster and where we’ve come from – backgrounds in tradition, history. But here’s another – we’re making space in this community we share to consider the possibility of God. It’s a Uniting Church thing to do.
The problem I have as Chaplain is that as soon as I say that word, ‘God’, people hearing it are off in about 200 different directions, some warm, some negative, some hopeful, some dismissive. People are imagining a God who they feel has dealt them fate indiscriminately, or a God who they consider is exclusive, judgemental or rejecting.
I like what the wonderful Michael Leunig has to say on this. He prefaces his web-page prayers with the following:
I use the word 'God' conscious of the fact that there are many who may find it objectionable – and others who may find my casual use of the word too irreverent or shallow. For all sorts of reasons people can be very touchy about this word; in my view they seem either too earnest, too proprietorial, too fanatical, too averse, too phobic...
There is however no ultimate authority or definition. The word is yours or mine to make of it and hold or discard it as we will…"God" as a sort of shorthand password... A simple robust word used lightly and loosely or as devoutly and deeply as we might feel – a bridge, and a way to break free from this material world for a moment or two, a day or two... or for what's left of a lifetime.
Its not ‘knowing’, for who can know in relation to God? Its not even ‘believing’, which is much emphasised in our rationalist approaches to God. For what difference does our belief make? Faith in God is, to me, about trust, an attitude to life, a disposition.
I share in the common story called ‘Christian’. That there was a person, long ago, a Jew, who pointed us to this God and how that might mean we live. And I find it rich and, for me, it gives meaning and cause to hope for the best and work towards it.
Rev Phil Hoffmann