Thursday, 28 January 2010

Occasionally people even read my blog ... so are you in or out of the church?

Thanks to Stephen Timmis for reposting large chunks of my short meditation on the parable of the lost coin and Haiti to his church newsletter. I hadn't intended there to be a sermon that day and then one suddenly came to me.
Meanwhile Paul Fromont over on the splendid Prodigal Kiwis has also taken up one of my recent posts and talked more about why he is now longer part of the church yet firmly rooted in the Christian tradition.

In my case, while reading widely across religious and denominational traditions, I remain firmly rooted in the Christian tradition but have had to leave church-belonging in order to do that. What do I miss about not going to church? Eucharist, and an experience of community (centered on following Jesus of Nazareth). But, ironically, the more and further afield I explore, the harder it is to return to the kinds of churches I’ve left. The ways I want to express my faith; my understanding of church and mission etc, spiritual formation, and the diverse sources I draw from (e.g. both Protestant and Catholic) have all grown and changed and as I didn’t “fit” before I left the last church I was at, I definitely won’t fit now.
In the end I suppose clergy like myself are part of the problem in terms of getting the church to change, too involved in maintenance not mission. We become clerics in part at least because the order or disorder of the church appeals to us and we can find a place for ourselves there somehow - this is not to downplay vocation or the word of God, it's just to say that clergy have strong personal reasons to being attracted to the profession. Perhaps the truth for me is that I need structured religion in order to practise my faith. I do pray on my own but I find it much easier to pray with others. I prefer to try and build projects with others - perhaps the church seems to offer some kind of ready-made community with which to start. Of course I've also only really ministered in minority or dissenting churches where in many cases being missional was about imparting the gospel good news to those who felt that they were already "insiders" in some ways. (So of course not really misisonal at all!)
More and more though I recognise that church creates huge feelings of ambiguity in many believers. Are those of us who still bother with it at all the biggest hypocrites? I hope that's not where I am but I try to face myself as honestly as possible with the question about whether there is any integrity in my ora et labora, in my preaching, teaching, praying and work. Meanwhile I think that Paul is challenging an insider like me to realise that because I feel comfortable with the church it may mean that others continually feel they are outsiders. Inclusive church is easy to talk about but not easy to actually bring about unless you're willing to change. Am I?

1 Comment:

Paul Fromont said...

Really nice reflection Jane. I'm just back from 4-days at our sole Cistercian Monastery with my two young daughters - a little tradition we started in Jan 2009. Lovely to be amongst a small community of monks - to participate fully, to be cared for, and to interact with a wide range of guests - each on a journey; each at the monastery for their own particular reasons.

Blessings to you.