Monday, 13 February 2012

A progressive congregation?

The phrase “going to Church” is one that trips off our tongues very easily.  

What we mean is that we are travelling to a particular building for a religious service or some other event which is part of our religious heritage.

For the Church is not a building – we all know that well.  

The Church is the people of God, gathered together by the Holy Spirit, to obey and serve God by being Christ’s body in the world.

That’s the theory. 

But folks join with the Church on Sunday mornings for a host of reasons.  

For some it is habit.  

For some it is because of Holy Communion.  

Others gather to read Scripture and to hear it being taught.  

Some folks are drawn by the music. 

Yet others seek a moral foundation for their lives -  or possibly for the lives of their children!  

Others are seeking “sound theology”.

I would place a check mark (in English english a “tick”) alongside most of those “reasons”.

But in my more honest moments I know that none of them tell the whole truth.  The fact is that I choose to join with this particular congregation because I like the people (at least most of them!).

I am usually glad for those 60 – 90 minutes when I can feel at home, or feel connected with people who are on the whole quite a bit like me: white, educated, middle class, and reasonably prosperous.

 It’s all very safe.

The parish I attend claims to be “progressive” (whatever that means).  In truth we are quite regressive, in the sense that we are all much of a muchness.

We’d actually be making progress if we chose to become a parish which was attractive to people who are not a bit like us!

And here’s the kicker.  

My oldest sister attends a conservative evangelical congregation which is situated in an inner city area of my home City, Bristol, U.K.

When I was young, this was an entirely white area, housing the working classes. Now it is multi-racial to the max.

The leaders of this congregation made a decision to “stay in the City”, and not to flee to the suburbs. 

More than that, the congregation “turned its face” to the neighbourhood.  These days, this lively and flourishing congregation includes members from more than 23 nations.  It is as about as multi-racial as any congregation would hope to be, and should be.

But despite all my theories  about progressive and inclusive Christianity, I opt for the “safety” of a heterogeneous congregation.

In practice I am of the “birds of a feather” school of behaviour. Of this I am profoundly embarrassed.  It is part of my sin.

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