Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Come to church


Here are some good reasons to attend church services, locally and on a regular basis:

[1] Building predictable patterns into our lives builds our resilience — and building predictable patterns into our communal lives (including being known) builds up the resilience of our neighbourhoods. We have tended towards doing things — eating, going to bed — when we feel like it, rather than at set times; and it is no coincidence that we have become, and raised children who are, less securely rooted.

[2] We need ritual in our lives, to help us make sense of this wonderful, fleeting tragic-comedy, to be fully alive in the light of our inevitable, inescapable death. That is why, for example, we light candles at the deepest moments of our shared existence. The church gathers around ritual, centrally, the sharing of broken bread and poured-out wine, the sensory, participatory reminder that God has taken on our substance and our brokenness in order to remake us, whole.

[3] People are dickheads. The documents of the early church are clear: whether circumcised dickheads or uncircumcised dickheads, doesn’t matter. Our only option is between radical forgiveness, and cutting people off. As a society, we seem to be choosing the latter, with ever-increasing speed. In part, this is because we are by nature creatures of over-reaction, and in the past have endured abuse, within all of our institutions including the church, in silence. But I am talking about a lack of charity towards our neighbour. When the church gathers, we admit that, since we last gathered, we have, ourselves, been dickheads; and learn to receive and to extend forgiveness, and the hard work of making amends. In this, the church trains us for living well together. You may find some hypocrites in the church, but the vast majority stay away.

[4] The church is a community of people who are seeking to help one another to live life well, within and for the good of the local community in which they are set. This is grounded in practices, such as eating together, according to the resources at hand and the needs that might be met. In this, the church, as community, is focused on Jesus, who not only modelled what it looks like to be fully human but, we believe, also empowers us to go and do likewise— however imperfectly. This is, of course, easier (not easy) in community with others than on our own.

[5] On the whole, the quality is not very professional. And in a society where every sphere of life is under ever-increasing pressure to be improved, this is both freeing and refreshing. Not that we don’t seek to do important things, such as safeguarding, well; but that we use the gifts that are at hand among us, to the best of our abilities, rather than chase some unsustainable experience or artificial goal.

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