Lay Anglicana, the unofficial voice of the laity throughout the Anglican Communion.
This is the place to share news and views from the pews.

Get involved ...

Posts Tagged "Simon Parke":

‘Pippa’s Progress’ by Simon Parke

I picked up this book in the naïve expectation that it would be a light-hearted take on Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, perhaps combined with Swiftian satire on the way we live now. Only 175 pages long, I anticipated a rapid and enjoyable read.  Had I known more about Simon Parke, I would have known in advance that, while it was indeed that, the book is both more beguiling and more difficult to stand aside from or to escape than you might imagine.

But first, the fun part. I really enjoyed the puns and the allegorical names, as in Bunyan’s version. I don’t want to spoil your fun by listing them all here, so perhaps I can take the twelfth stage, the City of Socialmeja, as an example. Here, Pilgrim’s guide is a young woman called Dee Straction as they go through this ‘gleaming city teaming with life’. Dee explains:

‘it’s where we’re all, like, connected with every one and every thing!’…’So I’m talking to you, sure’ said Dee, ‘total attention and all that, but I’m also texting a friend, tweeting my whereabouts to my 476 followers, checking my Facebook page, watching a film and trying to rent a house with some friends – all at the same time on this little gizmo!

Of course I laughed, as will you. But I also had a slightly uncomfortable feeling – surely I couldn’t be like Dee Straction? Could I? And it is like that throughout Pilgrim’s peregrinations.

In some ways, Pippa’s journey is rather like those strategy games which you can play online – or on your own computer (the 2012 versions of Dungeons and Dragons for example). And in places we think we can see where she has taken the wrong move, with disastrous results. But,  as in a  pantomime, Pippa is deaf to our cries of ‘look out behind you!’ She needs to make her own mistakes, just as in real life.

Rather like Pippa, I found my own journey of discovery would make demands on me and invite me to answer deceptively simple questions before being able to proceed from one stage to the next. Perhaps you are more evolved than I or the other human beings who surround you, but for me these moments came thick and fast as I went through the book.


Simon Parke, whose style makes the book easy to read from a purely stylistic point of view, offers a series of soundbites on the meaning of life. You can attempt to dismiss these aphorisms as comparable to Chinese fortune cookies, but they are more like the Tardis, containing more material for contemplation than you would imagine possible seen only from the outside. Some examples:

There’s always company on the journey, but you travel alone. 

You have to find happiness in yourself. You cannot expect someone to bring it to your door. That never works. 

I allowed myself to become defined by another person, which is never a good idea. 




I have no hesitation in recommending ‘Pippa’s Progress’ as a thoroughly good read.


To do, or to be, that is the question

Simon Parke wrote about

being haunted by ‘The Stature of Waiting’ by W H Vanstone…it compared the active and challenging life of Jesus before his arrest in Gethsemane and his passive acceptance of circumstances afterwards…Implicit, if not explicit, was a theology of uselessness; an acceptance of holy futility as circumstances changed. If we ever link our value and place in the world with being useful, I suspect we become a danger to ourselves and others.

He followed this on 4 May with a piece about a nonagenarian correspondent who

had settled for Being not Doing in the time given to me…to reflect on things, prepare to meet my maker and enjoy myself. I sometimes comfort myself when I think I might be being self-indulgent with a verse written in protest at a hymn which began ‘Rise up, men of God, have done with lesser things.’:
‘Sit down O men of God
Ye cannot do a thing
The kingdom is the Lord’s
And he will bring it in.’

On the other hand, there is the quote attributed to St Teresa of Avila, so popular you can buy it on T-shirts and tote bags, mugs and calendars:

“Christ has no body on earth but ours, no hands but ours, no feet but ours. Ours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ looks out upon the world, ours are the feet with which he goes about doing good, ours are the hands with which he blesses his people.”

In St Teresa’s corner are St Matthew (‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father’:5.16) and numberless hymn lyrics, from ‘A work hath Christ for thee to do’ to ‘Who would true valour see’*

What’s a poor Christian pilgrim to do?

This is not an abstract question for me. I have recently started a website with the aim of bringing Anglican laity together in discussion, joined the band of the ‘No Anglican Covenant Coalition’ and begun to blog here – all partly for the joy of it, but also in the hope of nudging people and events in what seems to me to be ‘a Godward direction’. I am not alone. Like my blogging colleagues, I had hoped I was a molecule (all right, then, an atom) of the hands or feet.

Is contemplation really superior to action? For what it’s worth, I think that God hopes we will we do whatever we can to make good our daily prayer, ‘Thy Kingdom come’. The way that we try and do this will of course vary from person to person (that is why we talk about spiritual gifts) and it will also vary according to our physical well-being, as Milton famously pointed out in his sonnet about his blindness:

When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,

And that one talent which is death to hide,
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?
I fondly ask; but Patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts, who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best, his state
Is kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.

What do you think? Are we here to do or to be?

*Thank-you, Sally Barnes and Mary Judkins, for the nudges!

We rely on donations to keep this website running.