Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Don't want to give the wrong impression

Despite my enthusiasm for many aspects of the life of the church, and in my experience that is the Church of England. I wouldn't want anyone to get the idea that I have an unquestioning, naive or uncritical view of the church, either my own chosen expression of it (the Anglican church) or the church at large.

The reason I often speak or write so enthusiastically about the church is not because I think it is perfect, far from it, but because in my experience the Church as an institution exists somewhat separately from the church as local fellowship. And my experience of the church in local settings is, overwhelmingly, positive. Of course there are tensions, disputes, fears, worries (often over petty or seemingly irrelevant issues) but I am constantly reminded as i go about my ministry of teaching, worship leading, pastoral ministry etc of just how incredibly loving and self-giving christians (indeed all people) can be, and how the church fulfills an important social and spiritual function, of making Christ real in our communities.

In my parishes I don't hear much about concerns regarding homosexuality or women in ministry, i hear about the care that someone received from a concerned Christian in the village, or the visit from myself or one of my fellow ministers that came at just the right time. I hear about how pleased people are to have a place of prayer and quiet in their village, a Church building with a sense of place, rootedness and history. I hear about the love that was shown to someone who felt excluded from the life of the village, or the need to embrace the hurting, grieving or sick.

This is not to say that the bigger issues aren't important, but that they don't tend to impact on the daily lives of the ordinary, sometimes struggling, sometimes joyful people of these communities - people who often need to know that they are loved and valued just because they are loved and valued. I am more than happy to do this in the name of Christ, and to reach out to those beyond our congregations just as Jesus himself did. Not that I believe myself to be Jesus, but I am, like most in the fellowships I serve, trying to follow him.

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