Guest Post 2: Through the Keyhole

I realised I don’t need to go to church services anymore. All I need to do is look ‘through the keyhole’ and I recognise the ideology/theology of that place.

It’s something television has exploited. And we understand it intuitively. ‘Through the keyhole’ the cameras wander around someone else’s house, from living room, to kitchen, to bedroom, in order to discover what kind of person lives there. Is it open-plan? Is the living space a TV salon or place for conversation or reading? Is the kitchen a utility room or a creative suite for gastronomy? Where is attention lavished? What is omitted? What lifestyle, or ideology/theology is being played out there?

Let me take you through the keyhole of a few church buildings. You enter a high vaulted barn. Rows of wooden pews run wall to wall. At the front you are able to recognise three focal points. One at the centre, a table with a cloth over it; one on the right up three steps, a bronze eagle on an orb, with, on its wings a large open book; thirdly to the left a stone sided platform raised up five steps. So here what dominates the proceedings is a table, a book and a pulpit.

Ah yes, here we have middle England, middle of the road, Church of England. Peace be with you.

Walk into another building past some pamphlets and again there are pews. Row after row. This time at the front there is a big speakers lectern. To the side there is a piano, music stands and a hanging projection screen. Here the focus is an orator’s platform, supported by some musical production.

Ah yes, a conservative evangelical church. Amen.

Walk into another space, low ceiling with just a few chairs in an arc and cushions available for use. The room is quite minimalist. There is dimmable lighting, and a Tibetan bowl to hand.

Ah, quite rare, a centre for Christian mediation. Ma-ra-na-tha.

Somewhere else I visit, the host hangs at the centre of the space. In another church the band is the focus of attention and its not dissimilar to going to a music venue.

Next time you pop your head into a church and are thinking you ought to wait around for a liturgy or a sermon or stay long enough for sing song, don’t bother. You don’t need to hear the words. Just read the space and you will know exactly what the ideology/theology is. Just like anyone’s home, any house of G/god will say a huge amount about what the ideology/theology is there.

They say a picture says a thousand words, but when you move from two to three dimensions, I would say space speaks a thousand thousand words or more correctly a million words.

Now that’s a lot of words. The question is, what are they actually saying?


6 responses to “Guest Post 2: Through the Keyhole”

  1. Jonathan, are you a poet of some sort? That was beautiful.

  2. Agreed. Nice post.
    What interests me is how ‘static’ the above seems. It’s ‘through the keyhole’ because the door is shut.
    How then does change occur? Clearly, something ‘other’ must penetrate, infect and invade the closed place…
    So, “next time you pop your head into a church and are thinking you ought to wait around for a liturgy or a sermon or stay long enough for sing song, don’t bother…” or perhaps, just linger long enough to leave some trace of dirt. Rearrange a couple of chairs. Leave a gift of a book. Jam the frequency of the radio mics. They are part of the body, and unless some blood flows, unless interaction happens, necrosis will set in.

  3. I tried the keyhole a while back, it was blocked with tiny bits of ripped up and chewed bible pages. Very successfully blocked too!
    So I pushed a bin over to peer in thru the window, but all I saw was the reverse side of a banner, DROL SI SUSEJ.
    In desperation I yelled and yelled and yelled, just as the music struck up; no-one heard me over chorus (repeated 20 times, ending in free-style tongues).
    So I went down the pub and talked to a few people… and found Jesus. Go figure!

  4. I figure that’s a great little story.
    Writer as well as artist eh?
    File under: dirt throwers/dodgy characters/people to not allow to preach.

  5. Praise indeed K!
    And yes, I am an Artist of the worst kind – I dabble in everything… maybe it’s because I’m too flaky to commit! Or have no attension-span! I’m sure you can draw an excellent picture or two K!!!

  6. Jonathan¯

    Robbie, your comment reminded me of a saying:
    “A poet is something you are allowed to be, but not become.”
    I remain in the realm of becoming.
    Which is why I also value people like Pete Rollins who refers to himself not as a Christian but becoming Christian. As he writes of Ikon:
    “we would prefer to call ourselves a community becoming Christian rather than a community of Christians..”
    It’s worth reading Ikon’s full (non)definition on their site (link on left under ‘Nodes’). Here’s the emerging bit:
    “Ikon does not view itself as having reached some final destination/destiny but rather as being on a journey toward that which forever transcends us. As a result of this we understand ourselves in a continual state of kinetic movement and fluidity. As such we would prefer to call ourselves a community becoming Christian rather than a community of Christians, for if a Christian is someone who selflessly follows Christ and radiates divine love in a broken world then we are profoundly aware that there is much of our being that lies in darkness, still needing to be evangelised. The term ‘emerging’ should not then be thought of as a provisional one that will some day be replaced with the word ‘emerged’, for we embrace the idea that re-reading, critiquing, constructing and deconstructing are all processes which remain vital for our spiritual development. By recognising ourselves as pilgrims and sojourners we endeavour to regularly meditate upon the direction of the movement and be open to the divine call that would draw us down paths we have not yet discovered. As such there is an implicit ambiguity and openness built into the heart of our structure.”