Thoughts from the Rectory

 “The church is the only society which exists for those who are not its members”

William Temple; Archbishop of Canterbury 1942-4.

I know a lot of people who would find this difficult or even unacceptable. It’s not that they wouldn’t want to help the poor, downtrodden or needy. Nor would these people think it isn’t important to proclaim the Gospels to as many people as possible. But it is quite counter-cultural to think beyond ourselves like this. If we throw our hearts, bodies, souls and finances into our local church we expect to see some feedback ~ we want to see something. It’s not natural to get no benefits!

It is challenging to think of our church as a missionary group rather than a club; a comfortable place where we can assemble each week and enjoy like-minded fellowship. There is no denying it is important. Even Jesus called his disciples not into isolation but into community. It is that community of the baptised that offers support for one another; it offers pastoral care and encouragement especially through difficulties.

But Jesus didn’t say “Follow me” to a bunch of itinerant fishermen, then build a stone chapel and then say, “OK guys, let’s meet here together once a week, then go our separate ways”. He invited them to a new relationship with the divine, into new ways of being, into a way of hope and into a life of transformation.

Jesus kept at it. He kept spreading the Good News. He never stopped changing people’s lives.

And that is what we are called to do. No big hugs. No shaking hands. We need to go out and bring people in.

Much of the stress in a church relates to the tensions this creates; between looking in and looking out ~ in outreach, pastoral care and reaching out into the wider community. It tests our finances and it tests our human resources.

A healthy church is able to make a balance. It services its membership and goes out and sows seeds. It takes risks and takes comfort.

My prayer for our benefice this month is that we can reflect on Archbishop Temple’s words and all strive to be as much outside with the unknown as we are inside with the familiar.