Sunday, 30 March 2008

Rockingham Road, stained glass and Edvard Munch

A bright sunny morning, an abundance of daffodils, and James MacMillan's, Vigil:Symphony (the third work in his Triduum, corresponding to Easter Sunday) made up for slight sleep deprivation, as I travelled to Rockingham Road, Kettering for the morning service. There are three Baptist churches in the town, Fuller, named after its famous minister, and two others planted by Fuller, Carey Baptist Church in 1891, and Rockingham Road Baptist Church, in 1945.

Tim Burt, the minister, has done a great job, especially in helping the church to be welcoming, accessible and inclusive of people with learning disabilities. And even though today is a low Sunday, there were a good number of people of all ages and all sorts, and together we continued with the celebration of Easter.

Two things took me by surprise. One was that in a building which is largely functional, attractively so, there is stained glass at the front, depicting Jesus, the Good Shepherd, as a gentle Saviour.

The other was even more unexpected. We went into a room to pray before the service, a room used only by Social Services during the week. In contrast to the usual posters of places of natural beauty with statutory verses of scripture, there was a picture of Edvard Munch's, The Scream, together with some Salvador Dali. This gave me a slight jolt, but as we prayed, and then went into the church for the service, I reflected on how appropriate it was. God embraces us in our entire humanity, in our ecstasy and especially in our agony. Commenting on the visible wounds of the risen Jesus in his appearance to the disciples on the evening of that first Easter Sunday, I quoted Cleverley Ford, 'the sufferings of this world, the cries of the distressed since the world began and until it ends, are echoed in the very heart of God in heaven itself. God suffers because we suffer.'

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