Commuter SM (Second Monday)


Another Monday and another talk. This time Brian McLaren who was Praying Naked and assured me at Track 1 that I was missing nothing by merely listening later. His confidence might suggest otherwise…

What, I can’t stray towards smut because he’s a respected Christian speaker?

At the beginning of his talk he invited listeners to join him in the Lord’s Prayer. This variation being that he would sing a line on one note and the audience sing it back, ascend another four notes per line, then process back down. He invited people to sing in thirds (or ninths, which confused me somewhat) and around North Dulwich I found my eyes welling with tears hearing several hundred people singing in simple harmony: “Our Father, above us and all around us.”

Whether it was the challenge to this ex-choir girl to find a harmony, or the abiding sense of communal spirit that still lingered in this mp3, I tried to sing along under my breath, but was stopped short by the full carriage of people around me.

I was reminded again of the man who had so loudly chattered away on his phone last week, like a seagull intent on making its presence known, but without offering a song or some natural beauty.

Would my singing along to the Lord’s Prayer be so wrong, when a girl to the left of me was singing softly to the strains of the latest pop song?

A little later in his talk, Brian alluded to the hypocrites who pray long and eloquently in public… could that also apply to someone singing a poetic version of the Lord’s Prayer in a crowded train carriage? The man had me coming and going!

This evening James Alison waxed lyrical on the joys of undergoing atonement, of sin as something that is recognised through the process of its being forgiven. He has a fascinating theory of God as our victim propitiating our sins because we have demanded it, thus demonstrating our own (or the Second Temple’s) bloodthirsty and destructive nature, which has now been overturned.

I feel for a Monday this is heavy existentialist and liturgical going for even the most hardened of commuter theologians, but I have just finished celebratory work drinks so most things seem a little too much effort. And I am, I would hope, not just any commuter theologian…