Rural Dean's Letter - July 2017

I wonder if we might take a moment to think about kneeling; what is it, why do we do it? We do it so easily, so effortlessly, as children, don't we? It is as natural to children as standing, or sitting or lying down. What about as adults? We kneel to be beside a loved one who is sick; to speak softly to someone in a private or special moment; to peer into the oven to see if our casserole or baking is ready; to tend to our plants - or tear out the weeds; to make the bed, stroke the cat, pat the dog... to pick something up or set something down. We kneel to tell a child off, or to praise them; to make ourselves equal to someone... or to say we are unequal; we kneel because we can no longer bear to stand. Kneeling, then, is in fact a powerful way of expressing what it means to be human. It's one of the many ways we use to be in relationship with one another.

And, yes, we kneel, if we are able, to pray. To say sorry. To say thank you to God. For someone who does not believe in God, however, this last type of kneeling is a very difficult, if not impossible, thing. Kneeling to them is entirely unnecessary. Kneeling is not just about 'there is no God - so why should I kneel to something that doesn't exist'. Kneeling to them is actually about the fact that they are thinking: I kneel to no one. Not their fault - this attitude. All our young lives, we are taught to: Stand up for ourselves. To stand our ground. To take a stand. To stand for something. Standing is seen - and taught by the world - to be the main thing. And, on many occasions, it is right and proper that we do. But not if it leads to an independence that is exclusive, even harmful to others. 'Everyone else around us is on their knees - but we are still standing.' Or, put another way: I'm all right, Jack. Kneeling to them means you are giving in, giving up. And that would never do.

Yet... who are we, really? Ultimately, what genuine control do we have over our own lives? Very little. What we need to do is stop thinking we are the bee's knees and start realising our true place in the whole scheme of things. And, when we do that then kneeling becomes as natural to us as it does to little children.

We kneel not because we are weak. Not because we are failures. Not because we feel useless or insignificant... but because it helps us recognise we have the gift of an extraordinary relationship with our Creator. This kneeling is called humility. It comes from the understanding that we are part of the great scheme of things. That apart from the creator we can do nothing worth. That there is no elite, and no underclass. That we are all equal under God and that we are in complete relationship with one another. Jesus knew this. Jesus knelt. If it's good enough for him...

Rev'd Martin BoothRural Dean of Sevenoaks