Thursday, November 24, 2011


There's a great poem by Barbara Hamby called Ode to American English, in which she does a scatter-shot approach to the marvellous way in which English is expressed in the States.   It's very hard to quote from it because it has no stopping point, but here's a sample:

I miss the mongrel plentitude of American English, its fall-guy,
       rat-terrier, dog-pound neologisms, the bomb of it all,
the rushing River Jordan backwoods mutability of it, the low-rider,
       boom-box cruise of it, from New Joisey to Ha-wah-ya
with its sly dog, malasada-scarfing beach blanket lingo
       to the ubiquitous Valley Girl's like-like stuttering...

You can see the whole poem on the Writers' Almanac site.

This post is about blankets, specifically personalized baby blankets like those on the left, but let's also celebrate whatever we can find out of my digital cuttings that relates to the subject.   One of the writers I catch up with occasionally is Kim Fabricius, a somewhat anarchistic Christian pastor with a wicked sense of humour (and I mean 'wicked' in its current sense of outstanding, but also in the sense of very cheeky).  He wrote a Good Friday sermon in 2008 which was posted on the Faith and Theology site this year.   (Fabricius doesn't seem to have a site of his own; most of his material that I've come across has appeared on F&T)

Fabricius is as hard as Hamby to quote briefly, so here's a decent chunk near the beginning of the sermon (in which our theme 'blanket' briefly appears):

This sermon doesn’t have three points, it’s got three words: Lose your faith! (I warned you I would be sacrilegious.) Yes, lose your faith. Lose your faith in God. For as the French mystic Simone Weil insisted, there is a kind of atheism that is purifying, cleansing us of idols. Lose your faith in the god that the cross exposes as a no-god, a sham god. Lose your faith in the god who is but the product of your projections, fantasies, wishes, and needs, a security blanket or good-luck charm god. Lose your faith in the god who is there to hold your hand, solve your problems, rescue you from your trials and tribulations, the deus ex machina, literally the “machine god”, wheeled out onto the stage in ancient Greek drama, introduced to the plot artificially to resolve its complications and secure a happy ending. Lose your faith in the god who confers upon you a privileged status that is safe and secure. Lose your faith in the god who promises you health, wealth, fulfilment, and success, who pulls rabbits out of hats. Lose your faith in the god with whom your conscience can be at ease with itself. Lose your faith in the god who, in Dennis Potter’s words, is the bandage, not the wound. Lose your faith in the god who always answers when you pray and comes when you call. Lose your faith in the god who is never hidden, absent, dead, entombed. For the “Father who art in heaven” – this week he is to be found in hell – with his Son.

Phew!  Imagine hearing that piece of fire coming at you from a pulpit...!

Here's another radical person: Tamie Fields Harkin, an Episcopalian minister from Alaska.   She presented a list of things to do if your really wanted to attract young people to your church - and they don't include any of the usual bumpf that's regarded as youth ministry.   Her 19th point is:
19.  Make some part of the church building accessible for people to pray in 24/7.  Put some blankets there too, in case someone has nowhere else to go for the night.

Sounds like she was anticipating the Occupy movement, and the way in which some churches are suggesting they open their doors to those who'd be sleeping in tents on very cold nights.  

Okay, I know this post is very loose in terms of how it's using it thematic material, but just go with the flow and enjoy the contrasts.  

Here's an extract from an email one of the Presbyterian ministers wrote shortly after the devastating February earthquake in Christchuch, NZ: 

I walked home from what remained of Knox [his church] yesterday afternoon surrounded by scenes of devastation far worse than on 4 September.  Whilst visiting a parishioner I spoke with one of his neighbours, whose husband was at that time unaccounted for in the Pyne Gould Guinness building in town. I walked for a while with a barefoot young woman whose workplace in the city had collapsed, and who told me of seeing a woman giving birth on the footpath. Later I passed others heading on foot with blankets and little else for Hagley Park, and wondered how they fared when the rain began to fall a couple of hours after that. Dinner was sausages cooked on the outdoor barbeque;  I've drained the leaking hot water cylinder upstairs into several large water containers so can probably manage with that, whatever food there is in the fridge and a bucket toilet for several days. 

There's a sense of just getting on with things, of having to; but the quiet desperation is apparent.  How do you start to deal with the enormity of the problem.  Christchurch is still dealing with it, and has another major earthquake since this date.  

Finally, an example of those church bulletin bloopers that appear in emails every so often:

This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.

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