The Revd.

Matthew J Hughes

01689 856931

Associate Rector

The Revd.
Stephen Broadie
 01689 852843

Assistant Priest

The Revd.

Bill Mullenger

020 8462 9624


October Leader

As a former student of languages, and as someone who lived abroad for over three years, I became interested in the concept of ‘culture shock’. ‘Culture shock’ is often experienced by those who spend any length of time in another country, or culture. One popular model describes four different phases of culture shock: honeymoon, frustration, adjustment and acceptance. These stages are self-explanatory, and describe what somebody goes through when they first move to a different country, or culture. Typically, for those who spend significant periods of time abroad, these stages can be roughly aligned with the years that are spent in that country. So, the first year is the ‘honeymoon’ year, the second year is coloured by that sense of ‘frustration’, the third year one of adjustment, and the fourth year one of acceptance. Of course, life does not always fall so neatly into these distinct categories, but I do think these phases of culture shock accurately reflect the experiences of many who have lived abroad.

Recently, I have found myself thinking about this concept of ‘culture shock’ once again, perhaps because I have now entered my third year of ministry in this parish. ‘Culture shock’ may not be the right word to describe moving from one London Borough to another! However, in my experience, every town does have its own distinct culture. Welling, where we lived before, had quite a different culture to either Plumstead, or Bexley village, which were both very close by. Research on ‘culture shock’ does remind us that adjusting to somewhere new does not happen overnight. I find it reassuring that for many people it takes at least 3 years to ‘adjust’ to a new culture.

The Bible contains one book that relates to all these experiences – honeymoon, frustration, adjustment, and acceptance. Walter Brueggeman divided the book of Psalms into psalms of orientation, psalms of disorientation, and psalms of new orientation. Psalms of orientation, such as Psalm 1 or Psalm 8, ‘describe a happy, blessed state in which the speakers are grateful and confident’. Psalms of disorientation focus on ‘disequilibrium, incoherence, and unrelieved assymetry’. For example, Psalm 88 ‘is the cry of a believer whose life has gone awry, who is unable to evoke a response from God.’ Finally there are the psalms of ‘new orientation’, which ‘bear witness to the surprising gift of new life just when none had been expected… the speaker and the community of faith are surprised by grace’*. These are psalms such as Psalm 30 (‘I will exalt you, LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths’) or Psalm 40 (‘I waited patiently for the LORD, he turned to me and heard my cry’). We may not all be going through culture shock, but I believe many of us experience that cycle of honeymoon, frustration, adjustment and acceptance.

We may experience this in our relationships, in work situations or in retirement, or perhaps simply in moving to a different house round the corner. As we try to navigate these different phases of life, I believe the Psalms are an incredible resource that give voice to our thoughts and feelings through times of orientation, disorientation, and new orientation. As my favourite psalm, Psalm 73, puts it: ‘When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply, till I entered the sanctuary of God.’ My belief is that, whatever we may be going through in our lives, the book of Psalms can be an invaluable companion, and may even provide for us the sanctuary that Psalm 73 describes.

 (*from Walter Brueggeman, ‘The Message of the Psalms’, Augsburg, Minneapolis, 1984)

Stephen Broadie



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