what does it mean…Church?

Copia desde la Crucifixion dibujada hacia 1540...

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Now here’s a thought.  What is the church about?  Is it to worship God who made all things?  Is it to evangelise, to spread the message of Christ as saviour to all people?  Is it to bring help to the poor and needy?  You can add to this list of course.

Why are we so concerned about the buildings that we occupy, and why are we so bound by the structures of organisation that we have adopted over the years?  So much energy is put into maintaining both of these that I begin to think we spend our time and talents unwisely.

The Gospels tell us of a man, Jesus, who overthrew the negative aspects of Pharasitical thinking, the desire to put law and process above the love that God commands us to act upon.

To put it more simply, I don’t see Jesus having much time for the pomposity of a church that wrings its hands at the steps of St Pauls whilst closing its doors to the people who were once camped out there.  I do see Jesus wanting to sing along with the good Christians who went amongst them and shared the word in impromptu religious services.

I don’t see Jesus joining with Rowan Williams and Mr Sentimu as they use clever words in their attempt to discipline the Churches of America and elsewhere with their un-Anglican covenant.  I do see Jesus wanting to stand alongside the gay man He has called to be a Bishop and scandalising the church authorities who, in turn, do all they can to destroy him.  Does this sound familiar?  Christ was hated by the Jewish establishment, whilst he was on earth, because he spoke of a love that was unacceptable to them.  They rejected Christ’s ‘blasphemous’ message and engineered His crucifixion.

Followers of Christ have always been on the edge, at risk of rejection and amongst the outcasts of society.  The comfortable church that seeks acceptance, that concerns itself only with the trappings of permanence in this world, is a church that has turned away from Christ’s calling.  Sentimou’s alliance with Mr Rupert Murdoch, and all that he stands for, by appearing in the ‘Sun on Sunday’ is a cheap trick and has nothing to do with the work of Christ.  It is another example of a person who has lost His way, a man walking a different path to the path of Christ.

So what is the Church about?  I believe it is about acknowledging our sinfulness accepting His forgiveness of those sins and then rejoicing in the salvation that comes from Him.  It is not about getting the best deal or standing in judgement over other people.  It is not about the singular love of buildings, music, vestments, power, position or privilege.

It may be hard for a rich man to enter heaven, but it is harder still for many a church leader, I would imagine.


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12 Responses to what does it mean…Church?

  1. annamaria says:

    It depends on how you define church. Your last sentence about church leaders suggests that you see it as an organisation.

    If the church is the body of Christ, the fellowship of all believers, then it just IS. Just like God just IS.
    We then don’t need to ask what “it” is about as if it was something abstract and distinct from us. “It” is about whatever every single one of us is about.

    What church is becomes a deeply personal search for what I am and what my responsibilities are.

    • mrcatolick says:

      Briefly, I am in agreement that the label church can be used in various ways. I am, I think, using it in a way that is fairly traditional for this post. I think I might to step away from this particular label when thinking of the community of the followers of Christ, if there is such a thing. For me, the label ‘Church’ has too many bad things associated with it. I am uncertain though.

      • Erika Baker says:

        For me the definition of what is church is almost existential at the moment, not really being part of any congregation and considering a complete move away from the CoE to the Quakers. If church means what it has traditionally been associated with, I no longer belong.
        And that would be devastating.

        • Dave Chambers says:

          Surprising I have heard of more than one person talking about moving away from the CofE to the Quakers – It’s a move I’m considering myself after 31 years of licensed ministry.
          If you are a person who is not too hung up on ideas of the Trinity then the Unitarians are another option. Watching NW TV about Manchester’s Cross Street Chapel being licensed for Civil Partnerships I was struck by a notice on their door: Many beliefs, one faith.

          The Church seems to hung up on forcing people into a standard mould, rather than giving them the tools that will enable them to find the way to God that is right for them.

  2. annamaria says:

    I did it again, sorry, the “annamaria” comment was from me, Erika.

  3. UKViewer says:

    Surely the Church is about relationships? Firstly Ours with God and he with us. Secondly, our relationships with each other. If the church isn’t relational than it isn’t a church that I could recognise.

    We gather together as the Community of Christ (or body if you prefer) to do what Christ called us to do. To worship, to pray and to share. To be in fellowship and love with each other, united in service to God and each other.

    My vision of a relational church is one of risk taking, exciting actions to witness to Jesus’ life, and to reach out to those who don’t know him. In some ways, this goes back to a time when the church met in each others homes, when its leaders emerged from among those in that relational community and where the gifts and material resources were shared for the benefit of all.

    Its a church, Where the sick, vulnerable, marginalised, different are welcomed and loved for who they are, not what they are or what they represent. Where inclusion is a loved word and exclusion is an unknown word. It’s a church where forgiveness and mercy are practised openly and without qualification. A church where Joy, laughter and fun are normal and but when sorrow, sadness and mourning occur, we gather around and support those involved.

    I’m not a great fan of old buildings being preserved as museums to a long ago faith, but if they are used, they should be open, welcoming and living, vibrant places. The are sacred worship and community spaces. There will be no reserved places. People gather together to worship and sit around God’s table, and eat and drink and socialise as community. A symbol in the community of all that is good about Christianity and Jesus Christ.

    I’m perplexed sometimes by the Institution that the Church has become. Why we’ve developed a pyramid of hierarchy which allows some people to be over us in authority, We don’t have any say in choosing them, it comes from a small, elite, specially chosen group, which has lost the idea of local democracy and has centralised more and more of the freedom of action of each church community. Better the day when the Pastor was chosen by his or her people who resourced him or her locally and with only a loose affiliation to Bishops and other churches (not denominations) in love and grace and mutual understanding.

    Perhaps I’m a day dreamer or have a vivid impracticable imagination. But it seems to me that Jesus did what was unexpected, he was a risk taker, he did impractical things, which were the right things, not the done things. Perhaps we should get back to that, not the safe, static stuff we seem to revel in these days.

    Who knows? Only God does.

    • mrcatolick says:

      Thank you very much for taking the trouble to write such a thoughtful and helpful comment. :-) Mrc

      • Erika Baker says:

        UK Viewer,
        how to hermits fit into this view of church?

        • UKViewer says:

          Hermits seemed to be called by God to be different, to live their life in prayer hardship and and solitude, even suffering, perhaps to go to a greater depth of the spirit and experience in God, which might be shared with others through preaching and teaching to those who come to them.

          It seems to be a specific and particular form of ministry. It allows perhaps an example to be set for us of selflessness, of surrender the whole being to Got, while being removed from the distractions of the world.

          I suspect that some of us might envy them a life without any cares, apart from their own survival. Others might call them selfish for removing themselves from the society of others. I wouldn’t share that view.

          If we look at those in enclosed, contemplative Religious communities, we believe that they are removed from the world, but from those who I’ve met in recent years, most are closely engaged with the world and its problems through constant intercessory prayer. Others have actually forgone their enclosure and are now out ministering in the world in mission and working with the poorest and most deprived. God works through Hermits, Religious and ordinary people in extraordinary ways.

          • mrcatolick says:

            I have been giving hermits a loot of thought of late, and it is quite a surprise to see you mention them here, quite apt and very helpful. Thank you MrC

          • Erika Baker says:

            Thank you, UK Viewer.
            I suppose I’m asking how hermits fit into your defition of church in the 1st 4 paragraphs of your earlier post.
            They seem not to be in relationship with anyone, not to be drawing people into fellowship – yet, they’re clearly part of “church”.

            • UKViewer says:

              I suspect that we all envy hermits or their apparent separation from the world and the ability to pray and meditate all of the time. But even a hermit must have some domestic things to do, even if it’s going out to collect Locusts and Honey for food. Unless they have a supply chain in place, which would mean that their separation from the world is conditional on having it in place.

              I think that in context of the church, they can be a focal points for prayer and intercession. While not in community, their lifestyle and discipline can be an example of our aspiration of being in the world, but apart form it.

              I often think of the example of Julian of Norwich. Walled up in a cell, from which she (or he, as the gender of Julian is not confirmed as female). With one tiny window into the church to allow joining in with Worship and a small one to the world, where good & water could be brought and where people could come with their supplications for prayer. There Julian was part of the church, but not off it, so to speak. I think of Hermits in much the same way.

              Part of the Church, but not of a specific one.

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