Where We Are Now

Ken Smith reviews a pamphlet of personal reflections by the SoF North West England Group. Where We Are Now is available from Andy Kemp, 12 Sandringham Avenue, Hoylake, Wirral CH47 3BZ. Price £1.25 –cheques made out to ‘Sea of Faith North West England Group’.

Life is partly about telling stories, and maybe trying to find one to live within. But as a former fundamentalist of a fairly rabid sort, I have a fair few irrational misgivings about Testimony telling. So I agreed with some reluctance to our editor’s request for a short review of Where We Are Now – a booklet from the North West England SoF Group. Having read it several times now, I’m glad I agreed, because life is not only about telling stories; it’s also about listening to others telling theirs. The booklet consists of 11 pieces of personal story-telling from one of our most lively local groups, with a strong emphasis on the interim nature of such story telling – i.e. true for me and true for me now.

At the end of a very funny Peter Cook and Dudley Moore dialogue about religion, the pair conclude that it would be better if no one had ever been told about God. Peter Cook confesses he’s never told anyone about God, and Dudley Moore says: ‘Neither have I, Pete!’ Twenty five years down the line and after most of a life time trying to teach theology, I have to confess more than a little sympathy for the sentiment.

But people have been told about God. Lots of people remain happy with ideas associated with the word. By contrast the Sea of Faith exists and prospers partly because a lot of other people, having been told about God, are no longer happy with what has traditionally been said. As a bereavement counsellor I am interested in all kinds of loss and the way people deal with the ensuing grief. The loss of faith is one of the most profound. A number of the contributors to Where We Are Now honestly refer to this sense of loss, looking back with a certain wistfulness, finding it hard to let go. One could almost say that it is a theme that runs through the booklet. Truthfully, it is actually quite hard to give up the idea that one is going to live for ever, or that there is something eternal about the significance of our small lives. Which brings me back to Dud and Pete. Given that theological reflection is a minority sport, are we the worse for having been told about God – or specifically, for most SoF members, the monotheistic western god? And given the traditional division between those who do and those who don’t believe, where do ‘those who don’t’ go from here so that what we engage with, in both thinking and living, gets bigger and the self that is the engager gets smaller?

So, buy it, read it and write your own.

Click button for printer-friendly version of this article
Registered charity number 1113177
© All Sea of Faith material is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence