Monday, 28 April 2014

Slayer, Anglicanism & Babette's Feast

by Richard Trouncer

Jeff Hanneman’s death conformed with the image of metal - necrotizing fasciitis caused by a spider bite plus liver disease from alcohol abuse. He was a brilliant guitarist with Slayer, writing songs that I love and listen to regularly 25 years on. I’ve always wanted to see them live before I die and now I won’t, or at least not with their original lineup.

All of which plays into thoughts I’ve been having about death and change recently.

It’s partly the Anglican Church. I’ve always had a soft spot for it, like some mad old maiden aunt who now only seems to talk about “gays” and “women bosses”, and it’s getting embarrassing. For years I’ve been going along to Emerging Churches, Alternative Worship, Fresh Expressions or whatever they’re currently called, hoping that this was going to help revive the Church. But, talking with old friends I made there, it’s emerged I’m very unusual in still being a Christian let alone going to Church. Obviously this may be more a reflection of my friends, but it’s starting to get a bit lonely.

It’s not like it hasn’t happened before. The Church spread far more widely to the East than the West in the centuries after the death of Jesus. Now there is little left to remember that. The church that spread into 7th century China was wiped out, the vast churches of Syria and the East are tiny vestiges. Churches die. God will not necessarily stop the same happening to Anglicanism.

Death and change are inevitable. But when you care about something, watching it die is pretty painful. Plus it reminds you of your own death and what you’ve achieved (or not) in life. Oddly guiding me through this has been the film Babette’s Feast, which features a dying Church and lost loves. I don’t want to spoil what is a wonderful film for those of you who haven’t seen it, so I’ll stick to what may seem peripheral - the quiet death of a small unimportant Christian sect. All that’s left are a few aging folk who will be dead within a few years, taking the Church with them. And who will remember? What difference will they have made?

It’s easy to say that the impact of something is impossible to measure - a tiny act of kindness, such as giving up your seat on a crowded bus, can lead to profound change and joy unknown to the giver. But I don’t think that’s the point. I don’t think anything needs to be left for it to have been hugely important. I think that those acts of kindness, or love, made and forgotten, are great in the eyes of God, showing his presence and celebrated by all of heaven. The Church in Babette’s Feast will soon be dead, but the love and kindness they can show each other is hugely meaningful. The Anglican Church may die, Emerging Church may not emerge, Europe may stop being Christian, but God remembers.

And though death and change may be inevitable for us, ours is a risen God, a God who breaks the chains of death and despair. I have no idea how anything will emerge from the mess we’re in, but I will keep faith in my God and hope that there is the possibility of something remarkable. I will continue to try to do the right thing, to try to listen to where God is calling me, to try to achieve something meaningful in my life. Nothing may remain except a memory in the heart of God, but God may also bring new life out of death in ways I cannot understand. The Anglican Church too may rise again.

And maybe I will see Slayer live. After the last judgement, in Heaven. Because, even with people who hate the Church for what it is, and claim to hate God for what he’s done, there is a risen transforming Christ who is always able to surprise.

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