so I'll just let you read, should you wish, this month's editorial for our local magazines...
As a blogger and regular contributor to and reader of various websites I am often surprised by how much people ‘give away’ about themselves to complete strangers on the Internet. Some of the people I read about are willing to reveal what are quite often intimate and deep secrets to a potential audience of thousands and more, and often say that they feel the internet is their community, where they make their friends and where they feel safe.
There is a myth that people who spend lots of time on the Web are lonely and pathetic individuals, or geeky types who are no good at relationships. My experience is that this isn’t the case, and that people do make lasting friendships online which they often carry on face to face at a later date. Just last year online I made a friend of a colleague in the USA whose family stayed in our Rectory whilst we were on holiday and who turned out to be funny, clever and a pleasure to meet. It does seem, though, that so many people, both online and in the non-virtual world have lost a sense of ‘community’ where they live and with neighbours, and are turning more and more to ‘interest groups’ or the World Wide Web for support, sometimes at the expense of ‘realtime relationships’ or friendships with those who live just next door to them.
One of the purposes of our Parish Churches is to be somewhere for people to meet together and put into practice Jesus’ command to ‘love one another’. It means dealing with the messy parts of relationships - disagreements, disputes, dislikes and the like - and working hard at tolerance, affection, support and trust. The Bible has high hopes of what it means to be Church, St Paul didn’t even consider buildings when he talked about ‘the Church’ - he was more concerned with what he called ‘the Body of Christ’, a group of people so close to one another, who lived in love and faith to such a degree that they were, like a human body, inseparable – with no one ‘part’ being more important than the other..
Today we are concerned with our buildings, many of them are precious and represent a fantastic legacy handed down through generations, a sacred space for us to use to serve our community, a place of safety and of hope. But when it comes down to it, the Church building is nothing without the true Church, the loving, faith-filled relationships that make up our Christian Community. We aren’t always successful at being that kind of community, but we are working at it. If you aren’t a part of it, there are no membership requirements, no entrance exams and no-one who considers themselves better than anybody else. All are welcome, and together we can build a community of friends who share a desire to live in the kind of love that Jesus commanded, who are seeking truth together and who recognise that human beings are made for one another.Jesus said ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.’ John 13.34