23 June – John Owen, Vicar of Steep & Froxfield

Old ways and new ways

I’ve lived in several vicarages, some of which have been old and draughty, yet roomy. In such houses, it hasn’t been difficult to find the space to set up a darkroom to develop and print black and white films. Over the years, I found the darkroom to be a quiet place in which to get away and maybe produce that elusive photographic masterpiece. It took me a long time to complete the move over to digital photography, and come to terms with losing my darkroom, with its distinctive chemical smells and snug interior. I also felt the digital results, so easily produced, couldn’t possibly be so good as the old ways of doing things. Yet for clarity, resolution, ease of production, and environmental footprint, digital is the winner. So although I still enjoy running an occasional film through my old cameras, for anything serious, I use a modern digital SLR. The results are impressive in comparison with the time needed to coax a similar quality of photograph from the darkroom.

The old ways are alluring, and nowhere more so than in matters to do with church. ‘We’ve always done it this way’. ‘The old ways are best.’ ‘I don’t hold with this way of doing things – it’s not traditional.’ Many of Jesus’ sayings in the Gospels allude to his new way of looking at things, from the difficulty of putting new wine in old wineskins, through to his statement, “A new commandment I give you: Love one another.’’ Jesus was not wedded to the past. He looked to a future in which God’s light would develop new pictures of hope and encouragement. Sometimes it takes a bit of confidence to step out into the future, and recognise that good things can lie ahead, if our minds and hearts are open to the movement of God’s Spirit. It’s therefore possible that in time our refrain may become: ‘We used to do it the old way. But now we have learnt a new one.’