Yesterday was not a good day in the life of the home church. A sad little feud that has bubbled away beneath the surface for much too long now, threatens to erupt in a welter of hurts and resignations that say little for the health of the Body of Christ here. Whatever happened to the need to be "in love and charity with your neighbour" before receiving Communion, I wonder?
More feathers were ruffled through a misunderstanding of what the morning's preacher (not me, praise God!) had actually said about ecumenism, and anyone who wasn't already upset about one of these issues decided that today was a good day to take the clergy to task for either a) absence or
b)presence of change.
The impact of all that was such that I came home feeling that, rather than encountering the God who loves us, I'd had a run in with someone very very different.
All the more reason, therefore, to be grateful to Mark who had alerted me to a gathering at "The Fountain" tonight. I skipped the post service coffee (so much for my public committment to ecumenism,- it was "churches together" coffee that I skipped: bad curate... ;-( ) and arrived in the pub in time to hear Justin set the scene by reading from Church Invisible as a prelude to exploring our thoughts on church from scratch. It wasn't easy to strip away the layers of assumptions that we brought with us, and to produce one-word essential ingredients for a new-born church. Words such as "prayer" "fellowship" "inclusiveness" and "food" led us into lots of helpful discussion, but 3 thoughts in particular stayed with me as I drove home.
- that Judas was included among those who shared the Last Supper (so what do we think we're doing, ring-fencing access to the Eucharist?)
-that clergy too often assume that our own experience in ministering is matched by those we minister to. Several of us were anxious about the "conveyor belt" feeling of distributing Communion to a large congregation, but this doesn't seem to be how it feels from the other side of the rail
-that it is very easy to objectify and offload problems and frustrations onto "the Church", when all too often it is we, as individual Christians, who are at fault. This put me in mind of a wonderful prayer by Jeffrey John
Lord, do something about your Church.
It is so awful; it is hard not to feel ashamed of belonging to it.
Most of the time it seems to be all the things you condemned:
hierarchical, conventional, judgemental, hypocritical,
respectable, comfortable, moralising, compromising,
clinging to its privileges and worldy securities,
and when not positively objectionable, merely absurd.
Lord, we need your whip of cords.
Judge us and cleanse us,
break and remake us,
challenge and change us,
break and remake us.
Help us to be what you called us to be.
Help us to embody you on earth.
Help us to make you real down here, and to feed your people bread instead of stones.
And start with me.