Posted by: dacalu | 2 June 2008

More Moot

London begins to feel more normal.  I caught myself on Saturday getting annoyed at the “tourists” clogging up Westminster bridge.  Funny how fast we can adjust to a new setting.

This week has been heavy on conversation.  I had a couple of great conversations with the pastoral associates here at St. Matthew’s and learned more about their experiences.  Both of them want to be priests in the C of E and each has a unique perspective on where the church is going.  I also had a great chat with some of the ladies of the parish.  There’s a group of women who all live around the corner in a retirement community.  They get together once a week for tea in the rectory.  One of them even remembers St. Matthew’s before WWII.  Nice to get some history on the place.

Thursday and Friday were pretty calm.  I’m trying to get a little time for meditation in. On Friday afternoon, I wandered around Westminster Abbey. The building is amazing, both architecturally and historically.  Alas, no pictures inside, but the abbey website’s not bad (www.westminster-abbey.org).  Highlights:

The Henry VII Lady Chapel at the extreme east is sort of a gothic dream of delicate stonework with huge windows, colorful heraldry, and statues everywhere.  (It’s early 16th c. so not really gothic, but more what the Oxford movement dreamed gothic could be.)  In the North aisle, Mary I and Elizabeth I are interred side by side, not far from a monument remembering all who died in the English Reformation.

The Chapterhouse, a great octagonal room were the monks of the original monastery met.  The room dates from the mid 13th c. and has amazingly well preserved glazed floors and painted walls.  It also boasts “the oldest door in England” which was assembled around 1050.  There’s a certain sense of permanence around things that are that old.

Saturday, I strolled through the National Galleries for a few hours before a jujitsu class.  After that Tim Dendy (who cotans will remember) and I caught a drink on the South Bank and talked about similarities between COTA and Moot.

Sunday, I got a chance to preside at St. Matthew’s, which was quite fun.  They let me sing Prayer A from the American BCP instead of learning a new one.  That’s for the best, I think.  I also got to sense an altar for the first time–lots of smoke, nothing was knocked over, all in all it went well.  The ABC showed up again.  So now I can say I’ve preached to and communicated Rowan Williams.  How odd.

In the afternoon, Ian presided over a Moot baptism.  It was an amazing transformation of the space.  From 747 seating (two aisles faced front), we went to two curved rows of chairs facing each other.  There was a font in the middle with a large screen for back projection at one end. The service felt like a COTA service–all the basic elements were there, but things were relaxed and informal.  Children played on a mat in the middle.

In the evening we had the Moot small service, about 15 people gathered in the St. M’s chapel to pray and talk. Becky would be happy–we did decoupage (cut and paste with magazines). The theme for the month is Affluenza, the idea of consumerism as addiction and disease, based on the book by Oliver James (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affluenza).  We talked, meditated, prayed, and crafted around what we want in life.  We also had some great music.  And, of course, we all retired to a pub afterward.

Theological Reflection (with a thank you to Peter Rundell, who brought it up):

Where is there grace in capitalism? As postmoderns and, dare I say it, as emerging churchers, we tend to be dissatisfied with things. What can we appreciate about capitalism and how can we identify the positives? Can we direct it away from the consumer glut and individualism that afflict us?

I’m off to visit St. Martin in the Fields.  Have a wonderful day.

Lucas

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Responses

  1. Hey Lucas

    Stumbled in via Moot blog.

    …really interested to read your cross cultural obsevations.

    Peace & blessings

    J

  2. Lucas,

    So good to read of your adventures in England. I wanted to just make a brief reply to your question about capitalism. I do this as an unreformed neoclassical economist. First, let me thank you for the question. It is always so tempting to look at the negative sides of systems without considering the positive or the alternatives. I also like the idea of grace within capitalism. It seems to be one of those paradoxes or koans that can lead us further into the truth. It is an oxymoron, just like Christian economist – which I am. I am going to limit myself to five minutes to reflect on this question. It deserves much more, but if I wait for the time to really work out my thoughts, I will never do this comment.

    I think of capitalism as primarily an efficient method of organizing activity when one wishes to form a community that contains more than several hundred members. In a family, bonds of love and mutual responsibility govern the exchange of many goods and services. The same can be said of an extended family or tribe, but when a society reaches a certain size these bonds break down. Then one must have some other form of organization of the production of goods and services.

    One possibility for making decisions about what get produced and consumed by whom is the dictatorial model. There is some central person or agency that makes these decisions and forces them on others. This is the “communist” model (although not at all as Marx envisioned it }. The problem with this model is the amount of information needed by the person making the decisions. Notice that I’m assuming that the person or agency making the decisions has noble intentions and wants to use the wealth of the nation to produce goods that will enhance the lives of those living in the nation. But in order to take the preferences of the people into account, the dictator must know what they are. And once he decides what mix of goods and services to provide, he or she must know the inputs necessary to produce them and whether they are available in sufficient quantities.

    So how does capitalism form an efficient information system. Basically through prices in competitive markets. Without going into endless theory a person producing a commodity only needs to know the prices of its inputs and the price she can sell it for to decide whether or not to produce it. The price for which one can sell the product depends on the preferences of the people. The price of the inputs depends on their value in producing other products whose values, in turn, depend on the preferences of the people. The capitalist system allows decentralized but coordinated and efficient decision making.

    Of course, capitalism depends on resources being owned in clearly defined ways. It doesn’t work well for controlling the use of resources held in common, like the air, the oceans, etc. It doesn’t work well when individuals have so much of a share of the production that they can act strategically to influence the prices. And if you don’t like the intitial or ultimate distribution of resources, there can be a role for government to redistribute them. I’m not claiming that capitalism is perfect, just that it does have the advantage of efficient organization of production in many or most cases.

    Finally, I’d comment on some of the paradoxes of capitalism. We think of it as a system that encourages us to act as individuals without consideration of the effects of our actions on others. Yet maximizing profits can result in the greatest amount of goods and services to enhance the lives of others. We think of capitalism as promoting consumerism and over consumption of goods and services. Capitalism is a system for providing what we want, so we shouldn’t blame the system for us wanting things that really aren’t good for us. Capitalism is seen as a system that emphasizes the individual, yet it really is a system that connects individuals from all over the world in one web of cooperative activity.

    Well, enough of my ranting and raving. Thanks for the question, and I’d love to hear what others might think.

    This system


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