Sunday, September 06, 2009

There’s something right happening…

When there’s something right happening between two, it invites life into it, and it expands. This is how both the natural family and the spiritual family grow. A man and a woman can put their two bodies together and bring a child into the world. But if it is not loved, guided, and taught, the child will fail to thrive. Likewise, we in the Church can gather people together and pour water over their heads, and church them. But there will be no spiritual life for them if no one is an actual family, sponsor, spiritual friend, confessor, teacher or mentor for them in the ways of Jesus.

Many of us have “failed to thrive” within the Church: We have been neither fathered nor mothered in any actual Christian experience. It is all words, but little or no inner awareness of God or grace. It’s nobody’s individual fault but the sin of all of us together. We have a Church that is largely held together by administrators, held offices, and programs. It’s not all bad. It’s just not enough. As many have said, “Faith is caught much more than it is taught.” It is caught from those who are already there, who have been transformed themselves; not just “Churchianity” but lived Christianity. We ourselves must be that “something right happening between two”!

Richard Rohr, adapted from Letting Go: A Spirituality of Subtraction

I think what Rohr is engaging with here is very much what I feel is happening in the Church of England at the moment, and it is a groundswell of potentially far greater significance than the attitudes of extremists at either end of the ecclesiological spectrum, far more important than rumours of schism, or incursions by alien bishops. Back to Church Sunday, new services like our Revive! here at Holy Rood, Wool, and the new services planned for the Wareham churches, are helping to build a “church without walls” where those who feel themselves outside the church community can feel welcomed and loved just as they are, without having to put on their "Sunday Best” and pretend to be something they are not in order to be accepted.

This seem to me a profoundly Franciscan thing: in his own day, St. Francis opened his arms to lepers, paupers, and outcasts, and drew them tenderly into the love of the church, leaving the Holy Spirit to do the long and careful work of penitence in each one’s heart. The Church itself he revered, and loved—but he knew that Christ’s mission, and his mercy, do not stop at the church porch…

Of course, all this work, whether it is these local and national initiatives, courses like The Y Course and Alpha, or anything else, will only bear fruit if the church can go on faithfully loving those it has wooed. But faithful loving is something the Anglican church is rather good at—and by preserving and nurturing all that is good in the practical ways that we are the way we are, we can do that, and more besides, just by being ourselves.

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