Have you found yourself fuming over somebody else’s opinion?
It happened to me yesterday. It was an article in the Church Times written by Angela Tilby. In it, she used some very unpleasant phrases. In one, she accuses clergy of “moral cowardice”. She says, whilst many key workers take risks, Churches remain closed. She also questions how Churches have sought to engage with people in the current climate;
It is absurd to be spending hours creating novel acts of worship from homes while Churches are locked and silent
(Angela Tilby – Church Times 8th May 2020)
I appreciate, the piece has an Anglican audience in mind and their views will be different to mine. But, I had the distinct feeling that, the writer had missed the point.
I have sought, through many blogs, to ask the question “what is God saying to me through coronavirus?” It was my fuming over Angela Tilby’s article, that caused me to reflect further on this question.
My next “fume” came when Angela Tilby wrote;
How trite has been the little trope that “The Church is people, not buildings” which totally misses the point about the public and institutional nature of the Church
(Angela Tilby – The Church Times 8th May 2020)
It may be a “trite little trope” but, that does not make it any less true. The Church is people and not buildings!
Do not get me wrong, I love a beautiful Church building or a magnificent cathedral as much as anybody. I find them awe inspiring, I find the history and stories behind them fascinating. There are some Church buildings that have a special “thin place” feel about them. We have a building. I love the fact that we have an adaptable and useful space in which to gather. But, I do not need to be in a building, to worship God.
Buildings carry with them a significant problem (and I do not mean maintenance). They create a barrier between those inside and those outside. For some people, Church is a forbidding place. How do you behave in such a place? When do I stand up, when do I sit down? What if I do something wrong?
I am encouraged by stories of how people are connecting with faith. Because of the ease of access and the anonymity of online Church, the barrier of building is gone.
Is God saying something to us through this?
What needs to change so that we continue to connect, beyond the walls?
As I read Angela Tilby’s comments, I saw them as reducing Church to the event that we put on. Putting on a worship event is only part of the role that any church has within the community. We are to serve our community for the sake of Christ.
I have seen Churches running food bank and food delivery schemes. Churches have become hubs within the community. I know of Church folk who are supporting the vulnerable by doing tasks to help them. I have seen Churches providing avenues to live out the words of Teresa of Avila;
“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
The danger, as I see it, is when this is over, we will go back to doing Church rather than being Church.
If the Christian Church is to make a difference with the message of Christ in the 21st Century, we cannot go back.