Friday, August 1, 2008

Who's Your Church?

I’ve always been a John – as it were. Despite my mother’s best efforts to have me haled by my given name, David, the world has consistently conspired to make me a John. I’ve managed to avoid the police lineups and the small town newspaper’s court columns (usually associated with those so ‘christened’) – but beyond that, I’ve pretty much resigned myself to being John. (A close second, of course, being the man with two – three if you count the middle one – first names, is Howard. In those take ‘em by surprise moments, acquaintances of some years revert to the ‘hi Howard’ – but I can live with that too.) My college roommate, John Macmillan, and I apparently exchange monikers early on in first year. Evidently not a one-off.

It certainly didn’t help that at my first real job at Stratford General, I was preceded by John Howard. How confusing was that for folks already predisposed to that salutive tic? Aside from ordering a few extra blood tests and fielding calls from time to time from salesman pushing lab supplies instead of psychological tests, no real fallout from that one either. Ever the leader in this informal dyad, John, however, jumped the name queue by some years in the second incarnation of our relationship, he a long time member of St. James. (Funny, nobody’s called Nicola Sheila yet – but that’s another story.) Lorne+’s first call to our household opened with, you guessed it, ‘hello John, this is. . .’ I can cut him a little slack, already having the neural pathways well-trodden with his long time parishioner’s name. I have to say though that, at sixty plus, Jim MacDougal’s greeting ‘in kind’ did give me pause. Hard on the heels of our neighbours inviting ‘John and Nicola’ to an evening of music with close friends from the street. Johnny Cash’s closing to one of his signature (poor choice of words, that) tunes – “Call me Bill or Bob or . . . anything but Sue!” started to carry new meaning. I’m sure folks were always mixing up John and Jesus as well. Beards, sandals, hanging out with a suspect crowd. Must have been no end of irritation!

And so to the point – I suppose there is one. I was cruising through the Weekend Globe a while back and stumbled on a derivative piece around Richard Florida’s book, the darling of U of T’s new ‘Prosperity Institute’. In Who’s Your City?, he maintains that folks tend to collect in certain geographic areas congruent or consistent with their personality types. Extroverts evidently populate the Eastern Seaboard. Neurotics the Northeast; conscientious folk the Southeast; and (surprise, surprise) Open-to-Experience people the West Coast – I personally have never heard that California is the fountain head of all things fringe and flakey!

We’d gone through ‘round 1’ of Ed Leidel (VIP – Values, Identity, Purpose) and were poised for the second visit wherein the identity of St. James would be sussed out. So, having our values clarified (accepting, questing, safe, and service-driven), I was indeed curious, against Mr. Florida’s background commentary, just ‘who’ we would be deemed to be. Nicola’s blog (preceding) has taken a look at the point Ed had suggested first considering: who is the patron saint and what’s he embody? So far, so good.

I have to say that small group, meeting at the end of May, nailed it. The signature ambivalence of the Anglican community was named – well, maybe not actually named, but certainly drawn in sufficiently clear terms to be identified in a closet at midnight with the door closed and the light off. St. James is female (oh, wait for it – here comes the ambivalence) – but with strong male characteristics. The church is remarkably similar – but diverse. She / he is middle-aged, but still behaving as if she’s (he’s) thirty. She / he dresses up (and down); likes the current CBC (in passing, anyone who has listened to the ‘vibrant, new CBC’ radio 1 and 2 cannot possibly have missed that the brain trust behind this dog’s breakfast of identity crisis – talk about trying to be 30 when it’s 50! – does indeed share a great deal with our current, fence-sitting, navel-gazing, ambivalent community which seems enamoured of the idea of being all things to all people); and drinks Scotch (well thank the wee man for small mercies). And her name (I guess the male parts, as it were, got 86’d at some point) is Jamie! So we’ve got a trans-gendered, cross-dressing, mid-life crisis ridden drinker as the personality. Oh dear. Richard would have something to say about this I’m sure.

I thought my identity crisis was crippling – but maybe I’ll just go back to being a John.
Definitely the views of the Web Master (and not his Scribe)!

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