Rector's Ramblings: May 9th 2021

 

 

This week, we start our meetings to work together on the suggestions that have come to us in the Shaped by God Together process. Please do come to one of them and I am so sorry that they are on Zoom but there is no other way to meet right now. It is important we all get stuck in. Have a read of my last 2 weeks’ worth of Rector’s Ramblings which are all a preamble to the discussions. I’m sorry if these Ramblings are a bit of a struggle but I‘ve struggled to say what I want to say!

   It has struck me that one of the tricky things about this sort of discussion is that we use words that conjure up many different pictures in our minds. That applies to all sorts of words but none more so, than the word ‘church’. The word ‘church’ is used to mean so many things in the English language. We use it to mean the building; and the people who meet together. One notice we had in one of my Norfolk churches was: ‘The church is what would be left if this building burnt down’. ‘Church’ can mean the local church, the Church of England, the international church. It can mean the small gathering hidden to avoid persecution in some areas of our world; it can mean church as we know it here; it can mean big lively gatherings with loads going on; it can mean the gathering on Sunday which strengthens us to go out into the world to serve as a Christian. As an ordained minister, I will have a very different view of church, from those who focus locally. In our discussions, let’s remember that each one of us may have very different pictures of church and yet we all use the same word.

    We will all have different hopes for what it should be. It means we need to listen well. What would be good to avoid is referring to others (e.g. the diocese) as ‘them’ – we are all the church together. We may disagree but all are trying to do the best they can as followers of Jesus, and as they understand God’s call.

    The key question is, for me: “What does the church exist to do? Does our current way of being organised support or hinder that main calling?”  Jesus expressed in the language that we, his body, are to be witnesses in word and deed of all he has done for us: to show we can turn round and come back to God and there is forgiveness and reconciliation. So the way we are together and with others is to model that repentance and forgiveness are the real thing. We are called to ‘walk the walk and not just talk the talk’ because, as it was once said to me – church is the only organisation that exists for the benefit of non-members.

    For me, the church is where the Holy Spirit works to form Christ-like people of Christ-like love, who embody the Good News of repentance and forgiveness. You will have other ideas but we need to ponder what church does exist for at its core, rather than whether we ‘do church’ in a certain way in a certain place. The Church as the human/divine mix that it is as the body of Christ has always been and will always be a mixture: showing sanctity, beauty, love and kindness and yet divided, immature, confused and likely to fragment. We might question God’s wisdom in what he calls us to do but he tells us we are the body of Christ. It is His church, not ‘ours’ or ‘mine’.

      It is nothing new for church to have to wrestle with tricky matters. In the Acts of the Apostles, the church got driven out of Jerusalem because of persecution – not allowed to stay in Jerusalem and remain a small Jewish sect. The Good News had to get out! Then there was the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) where they realised that new non-Jewish converts shouldn’t be required to follow the Jewish religious rules – opening the Good News to all. There was Henry VIII and all that when the monasteries were stripped of their assets, and the whole way of being church in England changed. What did it feel like for people then to have to hear the Bible in English and not Latin?  Did they feel it wasn’t right? And yet others gave their life in order to bring to all the English translations so all could read the bible.  There has been the whole change from the Rector being the youngest son of the gentry and so much more I could tell you. All change will have horrified some and excited others.

   We may currently feel horrified or excited. However it has fallen to us to live in this time and to wrestle with difficult issues. I hope we may approach all this prayerfully, seeking above all God’s will in this. It will involve grief as we will be called to let go our ways of doing things to a greater or lesser extent, and that pain needs acknowledging. We owe much to those who have gone before us in handing on the baton of faith. It’s now our turn and place to work out how that baton can be handed on into the future. May we know the God of love with us to strengthen and to guide as we go ahead.