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A View from the Pew

A View from the Pew

Speaking Candidly Jim Lowes talks to Mike Lacey Mike:

Hello Jim. Thanks for giving up your time to be interviewed. First, can you tell me how long have you been coming to St. Mary’s, Wexham?

Jim: It must be from about 1980.

M: I recall from an earlier conversation that you didn’t go to church for a long period of time prior to that. Why was that?

J: I find that difficult to answer - but I didn’t feel the need to go to church. I suppose that I was extremely busy in my job and some of that entailed having to work on Sundays. I suppose I was also too tied up in the secular world (chuckle). That’s what it amounted to; making a living. My job involved some travelling around and I met people of various faiths – and I found a common denominator with regard to their feelings towards each other, their unselfishness, if you like, their generosity, their desire to help others. Prior to that - going back to my early twenties when doing my National Service, sitting down with Arabs in North Africa, drinking tea with them, talking with them and finding that the concerns for them were exactly the same as the concerns for the average family in this country; a desire to see their families healthy and comfortable, as well as a wish for other families to be reasonably comfortable. It was a form of communism in a way (chuckle)...well let’s call it a social conscience.

M: That is truly refreshing to hear from someone of your age bracket and mine. I find older people often have difficulty with people of other religions and cultures. So this positive experience of meeting and engaging with people from different cultures and faiths is probably the reason why after church you once commented to me,‘You rarely hear anything positive being said about other faiths’.

J: Yes, I think the Church rarely seems to touch on other faiths. The argument may be, if you want to know about other faiths then go to their temples etc. I think it is wrong to assume that people of other faiths necessarily accept every tenet of the faith in which they believe. And I say this because there are religious zealots who will use their religion for their own ends quite often, and in so doing, force their believers into almost subjugation. I found in talking to these other peoples that there is a general acceptance of a common spirituality. Everyone seems to have this, and of course we don't understand it - far from it. It is extremely difficult to understand in the light of our present scientific knowledge. It is very difficult to conceive of a God who can be everywhere at the same time throughout the entire cosmos; especially when we are beginning to learn so much more about the cosmos.

M: This is the same as what you said to me once how you consider that religion doesn’t value the goodness in other people who have no religion at all - atheists for example.

J: Yes; I can’t believe that ‘goodness’, if I can use that word, is exclusively a Christian or religious virtue. All people, including atheists have intrinsic goodness. They don’t necessarily go around murdering, pillaging and so on. They are in fact completely compatible with the society in which they live, for most of the time. This is put in a technical way in a recent article in the New Scientist journal, suggesting that man had morality hard-wired into him from birth; that man possesses a character which is largely good, responsible, generous and unselfish? I believe this is true for the majority - I’m not saying everyone.

M: Have you got a scientific background which affects your attitude to religion?

J: I have a scientific background. I was an Industrial Chemist - but the attitudes I have expressed are not necessarily because of my scientific background; possibly any intellectual person might have the same thoughts. I wouldn't say I was especially intellectual in my thoughts, I can only believe that these must be common with a great number of people. M: You still go to Church. What continues to attract you? J: Yes, I still go to Church. I believe part of the answer is that our little Church of St. Mary's, which is several hundred years old, reflects the body of faith throughout the generations of many thousands of people. And somehow I am keeping trust with those generations that went before. Now this may be a peculiar notion. I find it difficult to answer the question adequately simply because I'm unsure how much of my attendance at church is nostalgic, because many years of my life has involved going to church starting with Sunday school at the age of six. Have I been programmed? Maybe... I don't know.

M: I notice that over the years since your return in the early 1980s you have never been Confirmed. Is there any specific reason?

J: Yes. It goes back many years. In fact to when I was about 13 or 14 years old, when I was going to Sunday school and the then vicar of the church suggested I become confirmed and suggested I have a word with my parents. My mother attended church regularly and was an active member of the Mothers Union etc. I asked her, and my father, and the response my mother gave was that I would have to travel a long way for the Confirmation preparation sessions (we lived some distance away) and added, “I haven’t felt any more righteous after I had been confirmed.” So I felt, if I was confirmed, I honestly don’t think it would make any difference to me (laughter). No difference to my belief. Possibly that made an impression on my mind – set a seed, let’s put it that way. I subsequently felt that the act of Communion, for example, seemed to me to be a primitive symbolism; taking on the beneficence of God, so to speak. I felt no particular need to be blessed. I was quite comfortable with the way I was – with my particular philosophy of life. That’s why I have never felt the need to be Confirmed.

M: My final question. If there is one thing about the church which you feel it should address, urgently, importantly. What would that be?

J: I believe that the Church, certainly the Church of England, is not sufficiently active in the day to day lives of people. Whether this is a fear of Church leaders to commit to statements which may be considered political: supporting a particular philosophy of a Political Party, I don't know. But I would like to see the Church enter into arguments more; with the running of the country almost on a day-to- day basis, , which is not necessarily interfering with the running with the country, but would put another point of view. I know from time to time there have been certain Bishops in the Church of England who have been fairly outspoken -who have been considerably controversial in respect of certain people of a particular persuasion (laughter). I do believe the Church should address itself more to the mature social conscience of the people and brought to the forefront.

M: Thanks Jim for a very honest and thought provoking response. You may have set the cat amongst the pigeons – but I’ve enjoyed it immensely.

J: I hope that my ramblings make some sense.

M: Thanks Jim for a very honest and thought provoking response. You may have set the cat amongst the pigeons – but I’ve enjoyed it immensely.

J: I hope that my ramblings make some sense. It is not often one gets the opportunity of express ones thoughts.