Churchianity or Christianity

Here are two photos of Churches I’ve attended today, whilst on holiday in Cornwall. I put each photo on my Facebook page and its interesting to see what replies I got. In many ways its unfair as one was absolutely packed out for worship and the other was open especially for a Cornish cream tea with quite a few visitors and so the photos taken out of context don’t show the full picture and story (& I probably don’t know it anyway)

The first is of St Petroc Parish Church in Bodmin and the second is the Tubestation surfers Church in Polzeath.

What it has raised in my mind is the question, which is the ‘real’ Church?

No doubt to some the answer would be the first picture and that would be largely based on the beauty of the building, and it really was glorious, the pews, the wall decorations and I have no doubt the glory of the liturgy.

The Church in the second picture contained none of the above. The chairs were haphazardly arranged, there were settees at the front, with a skateboard park serving as the sanctuary area. There was no traditional liturgy, even for the Holy Communion and because of the sheer numbers who had to stand it felt gloriously chaotic !

My issue is, and it constantly comes back to me, is what constitutes a Church ? Now this is where I run the risk of being judgemental and I don’t want to so please don’t take this as putting one Church over the other. I can’t be accurate about it as St Petroc wasn’t during worship and we were very warmly welcomed, including our granddaughter Piper. However to many a Church consists of the furnishings, the style of the buildings and so on, whereas there was nothing attractive about the Tubestation. It even had its walls and ceiling decorated with surfboards ! The only outwardly attractive thing about the building was being able to smell the coffee and see the sea through the windows. Again an unfair comment, as I couldn’t see much else for the sheer number of

people in attendance. What is the difference between the Tubestation and any other building which calls itself a Church ? For me it’s simply the people. At St Petroc we were warmly welcomed, invited to take a table and when Piper wanted to play with the toys on offer there was no fuss and simply a generous hospitality shown towards Alison who sat amongst the toys. In fact the lady on duty took Alisons cream tea and two cups of tea to her ! If the rest of the Church is as gracious and hospitable as that lady was to us then it’s a good Church to me. At the Tubestation we were greeted by a lady who asked if we needed seats to sit on or could we stand: she had reserved four seats for those who would be unable to last the entire service standing. Again hospitality and welcome.

I’ve been in Churches where even as the preacher I haven’t felt welcome including one where the steward said at 5.55 p.m. (for a 6.00 p.m.) service, “Well. lets get on with it lad: sooner we start the sooner we can get it over with !” Didn’t make me feel welcome.

I’ve been in Churches where I was told not to encourage the children who like to dance, or Churches where I’ve heard loud tut-tuts at the slightest thing out of the regular order.

I’ve been in Churches where the offering method was changed at baptisms to increase income from the increased number of visitors, suggesting the finance was more important than the welcome.

Now both these Churches today will have their faults and having visited each only once it’s not for me to say how they function, and of course all places of worship have faults and failings, pro’s and con’s, good and bad. But I keep coming back to the words of Jesus who gathered his disciples and especially Peter together and said to them “Upon this rock I will build my Church” (Matthew 16:18). Now some translators especially point out that Peter means rock and I have heard it argued that it also means ‘little pebble’ although I’m doubtful about that translation and can’t even remember where I heard it. When Jesus declared that ‘I will build my Church” I don’t think he meant a physical building nor a religious denomination but a community of believers who would study his teaching, learn about him and emulate his lifestyle of love and forgiveness. He centres this statement upon Peter who has come to the conclusion that Jesus is the way forward, but it’s surely a comment also on all of humankind who choose to live the Christian lifestyle following the model teacher. Alternatively it could also be a declaration that followers need to be strong like rocks and that Jesus is building his Church on himself: followers therefore need to be strong in their faith in Jesus and in their belief that he is Lord and Saviour.

Whichever it is, or both, then its about people NOT about buildings or traditions. It’s not about religious dress, or style; it’s not about words but it is about people living out the words of Jesus in their lives, loving, caring, accepting, non-judging, forgiving, lifting up and encouraging others, see the potential in others and so , so , so much more.

It’s about being the people who see others through the eyes of Jesus, the giver of life; life in all its fullness.

The well dressed Minister !

 

 

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Friendship connections

Just thinking about some good friends this evening.

Context…………..

Alison and I are currently on holiday but before we set off we heard of a good friend Christine, who had passed away. As we couldn’t be at her funeral we went at the same time to Truro Cathedral, lit a candle and spent time in prayer for her, her husband Colin and all their family.

As we entered the Cathedral we got a phone call saying that another good friend had passed away this morning. We first met Denise at Maple Leaf House when her husband Laurie had dementia. We’ve kept in touch ever since.

This evening we’re both remembering an Inner Wheel friend, Wendy, who passed away last year as this would’ve been her birthday today. Remembering her husband John.

Christine was originally a Sunday-school teacher of mine, although not many years older. She met and married Colin who was to become my best man at my wedding. All in all I’ve known her for over 40 years, and her kindness, generosity and her cheerfulness have been much to admire. Constantly concerned about how other people are, before herself.

Denise bore Laurie’s illness and eventually her own cancer with great fortitude and determination, she made the most of her life with cruises and holidays.

Wendy was the sort of person whose smile and laughter was infectious. Constantly laughing she too bore her cancer bravely and on my last visit to her was simply wanting to know how I was feeling.

(As we lit candles we also lit one in memory of Alison’s Dad, Les, who died in 2007.)

 

Whats the connections between these three folk who never knew each other ?

Firstly they all bore the hideous and awful illness we call cancer with bravery and remarkable fortitude; Secondly they all showed concern for other people regardless of how much pain they must have been in. Thirdly, they remained for me outwardly cheerful to the end, although I don’t doubt that in private it must have been so hard for them.

Fourthly, and most importantly, they were people of faith. Christine was the only one who went to Church, Denise and Wendy didn’t but they did receive Communion from Alison at home. In so many ways their faith shone out of them, churchgoers or not, and I think that it was their faith that enabled them to pass with dignity, peacefully, and inspirationally.

I will miss them all in different ways, but also remember them with love, affection and for their faith.

My prayers are with each of their families and friends

In remembrance of loved ones

Candles lit at Truro Cathedral today, including ours.

Conflict

Just a moment to vent some frustration in my life at the moment. I try to live my life to help others, to build them up, encourage and support for that is what I feel I’m called to do as a Christian and hopefully a decent human being. I belong not only to the Church (Circuit and District) but also I’m currently the President of the Rotary Club of Burton, a member of the Trustees of Burton Addiction Centre, a Trustee of the Transformation Trust as well as meeting people in my capacity of a Burton Albion supporter, a resident of Burton and so much more.

Why is it that there are times when I feel that others treat people with disregard, with contempt, overriding any thoughts about encouragement but only harbouring condemnation with their words and actions ?

Maybe I’m naive but I want to see the best in other people; however I feel that there is a mentality abroad that only looks for the mistakes in others. Those who look for the speck in the eyes of others and avoid the log in their own eyes (Matthew 7:5)

Reflections

How do we live amongst those who seek only their own aims and in so doing often put others down ?

I’m not sure I know the answer but what I do know is that Christ has called me to love others, in ALL, areas of my life and in order to do so it hurts, and I must be prepared to take that hurt. At those times when I’m tempted to tell others what I really think of them and when I’m tempted to tell them what they can go and do I have to hold myself back as it’s not what Jesus asks of me. Yes there is a place for righteous indignation and anger, when others are hurt and oppressed, but there is a place for love and forgiveness also. Others first, self last is I believe the God given model

I believe that the world would be a far better place if the ordinary man and woman in the street (that’s me) could learn such forgiveness, tolerance and acceptance. The picture below shows the words that are on our living room wall.

Oh, I long for the day…………