Monday, 1 July 2013

The Beating Heart of Community

One of the greatest appeals of church to me is the random hotch-potch of people it brings together. In fact, the more random the group the better. I've never had much time for the church made up of simply 'the white middle'. There has got to be something wrong there and the simplest explanation is that other sectors of the community feel excluded, cannot understand or are unable to participate in what the church is doing. This, of course, would be fine if the church were operating as some kind of suburban social club but it is supposed to be a community bringing God's light and fullness to the earth so in that case it doesn't quite cut the mustard for it to be a homogeneous mass, does it?

Who is locked out of our churches?
It is one of my often banged drums that I am from one of the poorly represented minorities in the church. A recent survey in the Church of England found that only 6% of members came from 'non-churched' backgrounds. It can be easy to gloss over the significance of this but as the number of people with no faith background increases the more interesting this statistic becomes. It speaks rather loudly that the church needs to address the every widening group of people who frankly have no idea what the church is going on about.

Of course the answer to this comes in many guises. I am convinced there is no one size fits all. Some like it formal, some like is casual. Some like drums, some like organs. Some want a hymn book, some want a big screen. That's cool. But more than anything church must have integrity, a beating heart, to be that place of God's light and love. Without that, well, it is dead in the water. Which is why, I believe, that signs of diverse, loving communities are so key.

Being in training to be a future church leader necessarily involves a lot of thinking about how things ought to be done and the best way to structure a service and so on. These things are all extremely useful when it comes to keeping people engaged or even allowing them to hear what us being said in the first place. This said, I still have a real soft spot for a church where it is all a bit random. And you know why? Because people are a bit random.

I like it when everyone in this big, slightly dysfunctional family we call the church gets to stand up and play their part. I like it when people bring their real prayer requests to God rather than the ones the Vicar thinks sound nice. I like it when people bring their old guitar and just have a bloomin' good go. In the same vein I like it when the organist has been there for forty years and misses every third beat. Because it tells me that people matter more than perfect music or eloquent prayers. That community and love and joy is what we are here for, not getting it 'right'.

So how about you? What is the beating heart that you look for in community?

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