Sunday, July 05, 2009


Continuing my series on the arrival of the 1995 "Bedford Blessing" at Dereham Road Baptist Church. This series was written in 1997, but only now has been released for general viewing.

There is nothing in a name but an expression for what something is, and whether you called them an acting priesthood or not, those Bedford Baptists were what they were, and what they were was apparently archetypical. But just how much of the old priestly archetype was actually, and no doubt unknowingly, being rehashed on that day at Dereham road Baptist church in the early spring of AD 1995 is difficult to tell, because if it was, then it was all very subliminal and heavily encrypted. History never truly repeats itself because there is always some feedback from the past. A man may learn from experience and yet still be tempted into old ways of doing things. He thus satiates both the temptation and the demands of learning by a combination of energy redirection, and behavioural modification that include the use of terms, labels and language that dress up his behaviour in a different guise. He is, however, always walking on the edge, and is in constant danger of deceiving himself and fulfilling his temptation directly. On that early spring day of 1995 I saw an analogous situation; the gravitational draw of ancient religious relations was acting, or at least trying to act; ethereal lighter than air high passion spiritual patter was bubbling to the top; familiar old motifs were presented in a modified guise: “Gnosis” became “God’s touch”, “Inner light” became “heart knowledge”, Priestly bearing became Spiritual Authority. It is really, however, all a matter of degree and balance. Each of these religious motifs may have a place in a genuine Christian culture, but if the balance is lost over these things it starts to show. The ministers of blessing then become imparters of gnosis and a closed shop who claim sole agency, seeing in their own expression of faith the prime focus and source of God’s work and blessing. They then show an unwillingness to engage in equitable and reciprocal relations with those whose blessings are different from their own, much preferring to relate, like religious salesman, by offering their priestly services. They exploit the demands created by spiritual vulnerability, and fulfil the need for patriarchal leadership of close Christian community in a remnant church whose role is now far less integrated with the larger society. They have a sharp eye for the spiritual inadequacy and flaw that creates the need for their services amongst those they seek to lead and those who may sometimes confer upon them a status not unlike that of the priestly patriarchs of old. For these patriarchs do not chose their role themselves; it is chosen for them by those who choose to be lead by them. They are an evolutionary product of the sea of faith, being selected, at times unwillingly, by an unsettling modern spiritual environment where people are once again tempted to look to the chancellery for authority, blessing, and above all religious security. This, then, is one facet of today's spiritual ethos. It is one that works. It is one that has not so much been consciously selected for as it is what is left when other candidates for selection have failed; it is an an island of survival in a sea of failure.

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