Luggage and baggage


Bespoke red custom baggage – Tanner Krolle


As anticipated, this week at work has been too busy to spend much time on further preparations. But before Saturday morning, I do have to pack. The joining instructions say that the dress code is ‘informal’, although what that means in a CofE context is debatable. I suspect it doesn’t mean a onesie. We’re advised to bring a Bible and walking shoes.

So, what else to take? Food supplies for late night snacks must be essential. Others who’ve blogged about taking part in the SC suggest that uploading a movie on the computer would be useful – this meeting is in a conference centre, not a hotel, so I assume there won’t be the opportunity in the evening to de-stress by watching some junk TV. I keep thinking of the episode of ‘Rev’ when two characters have brought along some survival items for a silent retreat:

The whole thing begins with Roland and Adam spending time on a retreat to an abbey where there’s a vow of silence. The only noise we hear is Adam’s inner monologue, the time he spends alone with God, but once Roland enters, it’s like the outside world begins to creep in. Roland’s brought DVDs and food, and he has no problem with loudly talking to his friend. Adam, however, has stocked up on liquor, and he slides the drawers of the little desk open to reveal his bottles. Even when alone with God, the world is always present somewhere.

But this isn’t a silent retreat (although we are asked to maintain social media silence).

One item I’ve decided to take, in addition to a Bible, is a Greek New Testament. I’m slightly uneasy about this. I don’t want to say ‘Look at me, I can read New Testament Greek’. But I feel that church life is also very anti-intellectual at times. Back when I was on General Synod, I once made a speech in which I used one ancient Greek word. Afterwards, well-meaning people came up in the tea room to ask me if my father was a priest! Come on, people, a young woman is allowed to learn Greek!

There’s also a tension here between ‘Christian faith is for everyone: you don’t have to be educated’ and the existence of professional theologians and linguists to enable everyone to understand that faith. In my brief sortie into an online discussion of same-sex marriage, I was exhorted to ignore ‘the experts’ and get a good concordance. But I don’t think either of those is an honest option. I want to know what the words meant in context. If this was the day job, and a student relied on a translation, I’d mark them down. Even with a student who had no Latin or ancient Greek, I’d expect them to use a dictionary – not to get ‘the’ meaning, but to gain some sense of the range of possibilities, how the use of that word in a legal text of the 4th c. BC differed from the nuances of its use in a biography of the 2nd c AD, and so on. I’d expect them to use a lexicon to find other uses of the word to explore. And I’d expect them to look at some modern commentaries on the text, which would tease out the meaning still further. Why are we supposed to leave our brains outside the door when it’s our faith – so much more important than getting a degree! – that’s at issue?

And this is just the luggage. Like everyone else, I’ll also be bringing my baggage. My life, my story, my beliefs – who I am. And I’ll be learning other people’s stories and respecting them. One of the two wisest things ever said to me was, ‘everyone has pain in their lives: you just need to scratch the surface in the right way and you’ll find it’. And the other wise thing? Said to me after I’d wondered about extending my range with another professional qualification, it was ‘Be yourself: only more so.’ Amen to that.

About fluff35

I blog on a range of subjects arising from various aspects of my life. On, I focus on my reactions to early retirement and think about aspects of teaching and research which I hope will be stimulating to those still working in higher education. On, I blog as an authorized lay preacher in a pretty standard parish church of the Church of England, who needs to write in order to find out what she thinks. I took part in the Oxford/St Albans/Armed Forces C of E 'Shared Conversations' in March 2016, worked on the Living in Love and Faith resources from 2017 and was elected to General Synod in October 2021, and continue to try to reflect on some of the issues. On I share my thoughts on various aspects of the history of medicine and the body. I have also written for The Conversation UK on
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