MORE THOUGHTS 8
Our Presbytery is made up of many different churches; congregations of different sizes in different locations, together making up the diverse entity that we are. There may be fewer churches than there were 5 years ago as some church buildings have closed, which is a cause of sadness. At the same time, each congregation is consciously thinking about what its role might be within its community as mission plans are developed, while Presbytery works to encourage and support these. Each place holds a story, indeed many stories of individuals and congregations that are in themselves a witness to faith over generations, during which the times and the contexts have changed.
Sometimes it can feel that change is being forced upon us. Indeed, the circumstances of these Covid19 times mean that some of the ways in which we carried on our normal lives at home or in public spaces have been subject to regulations designed to keep us safe and healthy. We know all this. It has been this way for well over a year and we have adapted. Maybe we should be recording these things within our churches as being part of the story of this time for the sake of the future because it is as we look back at the journeys of faith from the past that we come to value each present moment. We are writing a new chapter in our stories but that does not mean that we do not also continue to learn and value what we have inherited. Indeed, history tells us in every context that we forget the past at our peril.
Our stories are rooted in different cultures, each of which has things to offer the whole. We cannot come together and really connect with one another without appreciating that we have been shaped by different contexts and traditions. “Uniting” as a church now has a broader compass than Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregational, all of which hold great richness. “Uniting” now means thinking about how we can be truly cross-cultural.
This may all seem too complex when we are just trying to get on with being people of faith in our own places, yet the way we understand how we have come to be the people we are in each congregation and recognize the things that have shaped us are important to how we discover our strengths and where there may be room for growth.
Really there is nothing very new in all of this. It may seem more confronting in these times, but we only have to read our Bibles to realise that the journey of faith has always been one of discerning God’s will and God’s way forward in challenging situations. Often people struggled, but we read how God kept calling them to trust, to be humble and to leave aside the desire to fit into the norms of the society around. Then they could allow themselves to be shaped by God’s wisdom. What struggles are written into the stories of people in our Scriptures! But what witness is also there to the transformative way of Christ and the energizing power of God’s Spirit! It’s just the same for us. So, let’s not get bogged down but see ourselves as part of the ongoing story of God’s work in our own places. We may not feel able to do great works, but, as Mother Theresa said, we can each play our little part with great love, and, we might add, with openness and a desire to discern God’s word that comes to us in different ways.
“Your word, O God, is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path”. Psalm 119: 105