I can’t imagine what Herbert would have made of a clergy training day I went on recently, all about advertising. I expect he may have thought that all adverts were appealing to one or more of the seven deadly sins and we should shun and avoid temptation.
Alas, adverts are all around us nowadays and they get more and more sophisticated. Have you ever played that game when you try to guess just what it is they’re trying to sell when you see some waves crashing on a beach, a bag dancing in the wind, and then a sunset? Is it a car, or perfume, or ice cream? The experts tell us that advertisers are trying to sell their product by using a story, and that they are trying to align their product with one of the three main needs of our society at the moment. Those are the need to feel better about ourselves, the desire to make the world a better place, and wanting to belong to a group.
Well, to Herbert it would have seemed impossible not to belong to a group - a family, a village, a community. I doubt there was much loneliness in his day. Making the world better was a consideration to some - Cromwell’s Puritans or even a few decades later the Levellers and Diggers - but they were a minority, and you had to be desperate if you were poor to risk it all to try and change things. Nowadays we can all be armchair critics and tell the government how it should be!
No, the one thing that I think Herbert would have got was the need to feel OK about ourselves. Think of ‘Love III’ - “my soul drew back, guilty of dust and sin” - all those feelings of unworthiness, and always the voice of God saying - “you must sit down, and eat” or “my child” at the end of ‘The Collar’.
Herbert voices the human condition so well, but doesn't leave us there, always answering with God’s comfort and reassurance. In fact a book I’ve been reading at the moment speaks of how we misrepresent Christianity as about right belief and a set of creeds, when at its heart there is of course an emotional reaction to God.
This is Herbert through and through - not correcting our dodgy understanding, but simply telling us what it ‘feels like’ to know God, to follow God. Herbert is gripped by God, in love with God, and sometimes when we try to argue with the new-atheists we forget to sell the passion of our faith. Thank you, Mr. Herbert, for the excellent advertisement of your holy fire.
Our website is updated every three months or so. Please carry on visiting so we can keep you up to date with the news from Bemerton Parish.