Monday, 9 February 2009

Freeze-thaw theology: a parable for today's church

frozen fountain 1

Viewed from a distance this fountain appears to be completely frozen and ice-bound. Once up close it is obvious that something far more fascinating is happening. Bright, clear water is bubbling up from the top, sparkling as it catches the light. It then flows down the grooved sides of the fountain, beneath the solid outer accumulation of enveloping ice.

The trinity of water, sun and stone fountain are interacting together in the beautiful physics of freezing and thawing. Here the process is seen transitioning dynamically betwixt and between its endpoints of solid and liquid states. There is a provisional inbetween-ness to what we see.

So the image tells an unfolding story of  change and stasis, of order and disorder. It is a parable of water's back and forth tango between solid and liquid on the solid stone dancefloor of the fountain, with music provided by the rhythmic virtuosity of the sun.

And it is as the sun's seasonal music enters a quieter and slower passage that the temperature drops and everything about the dance appears more deliberate and less chaotic, more intensely ordered. It is now that free-flowing water can turn into ice. Molecules line up and join together to create expansive, spacious crystal structures which reflect the light brilliantly. Water takes solid form and is shaped and sculpted across the surface of the fountain in a myriad of diverse topologies, each being a different localised expression of the same basic structural building blocks. This is what water uniquely looks like when it freezes in this very particular time, space, place and context.

For a moment in eternity the nature of water is frozen into static shape. Hours, days, weeks pass by and turn into years and centuries. Then the sun draws close with melting intention. The season changes. The period of stasis is ending and the transition to liquid times is beginning. Freeze becomes thaw. Water bubbles up from the fountain and, beneath the solid ice,  living water flows.

Warmed from the outside by the sun and from within by the flowing water,  the supposed permanence of the ice-structure melts away. The inexorable thaw begins.  Drop by dripping drop, the source of water reclaims its own. Eventually no ice remains. Solid is now all liquid. The water molecules are energised and dancing with abandon. The sun's music is wild and freeing. The stone fountain rejoices at this vibrant awakening. The trinity dreams of icy delights for a new age and will wait until the time is right to call forth the physics of solid-shaped promise.  Then liquid water will once more take solid form and shape, sculpted in fresh ways by original intent.

frozen fountain 3

frozen fountain 2

    Photographs taken at 'Holiness and Risk', The Hayes, Swanwick

This is our story. We live in melting times. Holy times. Risky times. Jubilate Deo.

For an intriguing historical analysis of the cyclical nature of the growth and decline of various expressions of Christianity read  Phyllis Tickle, The Great Emergence: how Christianity is changing and why.

I am indebted to Jane Leach of Wesley House, Cambridge, for pointing out the frozen fountain. Bless you Jane!

1 comment:

  1. ...and we cannot risk a return to the iceage, so let's turn our eyes to the s"o"n