Thursday, 13 October 2011

Children and Theological Whittling

The difficult events of the last twenty-four hours (and no, I am not referring to last night's PCC meeting, which was good) have left a pall of awkwardness over la Famille d'Aculaire. Me and the missus are feeling sad, and the very visible grief response from the girls is now turning into something altogether more tricky. 

As a priest, some would call me a theologian. Certainly, it was the excuse I used for being rubbish at practical things like decorating, but as for the truth of the matter, the jury is still out. 

Then the loss of the Blessed Stimpy (the Vatican beatified her this morning) precipitated the questions that children ask. They are the questions are that, without any doubt, are deeper than any I have seen or read or have been asked by any adult. They are the questions that expose me not as a theologian, but as something of a fraudulent, clumsy heretic. 

Daddy, how did Stimpy go to Heaven? Did she have to go in a plane?
No love, God took that special part of her that made her Stimpy and took it and is looking after it 
What does it look like?
You can't see it, but you know it is there. It's a bit like the wind, sweetheart. You can't see it but you know it there because the leaves move about. 
Will Stimpy see Dante (our old bunny) in Heaven?
I am not sure. What do you think? I think that they will be playing together with Charlie (Mavis's dog who died a year ago). I hope so too. 
But who will feed Stimpy in Heaven?
Stimpy won't need food like we need food, because she won't be hungry - just really happy all of the time. 
Why did Stimpy have to die?
We all have to die, baby. It is part of being alive, and in the end we go to Heaven.  
Will I see Stimpy when I go to Heaven?
Of course. I think she might be waiting for you like she does when you come home from school. 

...and so it goes. This happens in schools too (the 'what you mean that God calls you to be a Vicar?' type of questions). They are deep and insightful questions, whose answers are important and will be meaningful to those who ask them. It also tells me more about the quality of spirituality that children have - and to be honest, it is breathtakingly deep. It also presses in me the niggling suspicion that we as adults do not receive the spirituality and implicit theology of children half as much as we should. I would go so far as to say that in an ideal world, it should not be the priest or minister who preaches, but a young child who is given the chance to say what they think. How much more would we learn as disciples. 

It is not that adults are incapable of asking those sort of questions - more that they have lost the ability to express themselves so purely and wonderfully (and fearfully at times).


  1. We were already grieving with you for the Blessed Stimpy and I find this particularly moving. My father used to say that the thing he valued most about having young children is that they could always show him things in the metaphorical garden of life that he had missed, or show him a new way of looking at them. This is what your children are offering you now, and I endorse what you say:

    'in an ideal world, it should not be the priest or minister who preaches, but a young child who is given the chance to say what they think. How much more would we learn as disciples'

    In the Church of England, 'children's ministry' means the ministry of adults to children: I would love that to be broadened to include your ideal world. I did blog about it in June:

  2. It seems to me that you've got the insight which we seem to lose as we grow up. The innocence and originality and clarity of questions that children ask, are perhaps the ones we should be hearing or asking ourselves.

    Perhaps as adults, we are unable to face the implications of the questions. We seem to lose sight of our mortality in the business of our lives. We allow ourselves to be immersed in the world, to the detriment of our spiritual life and the call to 'be in the world, but not of it'.

    Thanks for giving me the chance to actually think and see as a child see's. It's not one I have very often.



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