Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Faith for the Fainthearted - The Church, Part 1

Ah, Church..... I say that in a similar tone to how you might say 'Ah, extended family gatherings'. We all (or most of us at any rate!) love our families in all their weird and wonderfulness and have all sat through an afternoon with a particular group of relatives that we wouldn't care to repeat in too much of a hurry. That, after all, is what Christmas is for, right?! And why we are all a little bit grateful that it comes but once a year!

Church, like family, has many good things about it. When you are part of a church if you have a baby you suddenly have twenty additional grandparents to coo over your offspring. There are people to talk to about all sorts of things, people to pray for you and listen to your thoughts and feelings. There is a support network for when things get tough.

Church offer you a space to think about the bigger questions of life, a guaranteed space out from the busyness of life each week to recharge, reset and get ready for a new week ahead. If they are doing it right then Church is a place to challenge you, where you can learn and grow and attend to the whole spectrum of who you are spiritually and mentally. Our church even has a dieting group and yoga so they can sort you out physically as well!!

However Churches, like families, are also occasionally a pain in your neck. They squabble, they fall out, the say annoying things to you, they fail you, the do the wrong thing, they let you down. Being in church is not always easy. It takes up time when you could be enjoying a nice hot chocolate and a muffin in a coffee shop with things like finance meetings. You end up going out on evenings you would rather stay in and getting out of bed when you'd rather have a lie in.

It would be out and out lie for me to say that going being part of a church would make your life easier. It more than likely won't. But, as life goes on, I come more and more to realise that the easy things in life are often the least valuable. Everything worth having takes work and perseverance. Everything that means something has the potential to let you down. There is no love without the possibility of heartbreak. There is no Church without the chance of it going wrong and no community without sacrifice.

Church is a very human institution and it has all the failings you would expect from any organization where a whole group of people attempt to work together. But I do believe that it has the potential to be something rather extraordinary in our lives and communities. There is nothing like standing next to your actual, real neighbour and praying 'Forgive me for I have not loved my neighbour as myself.'

And there is nothing like sitting in a Church building, as I regularly do, and see every sector of the community passing through from the Toddlers group for playtime, to the homeless for a meal, to a group from the Mosque popping in for lunch, to someone popping in to light a candle for a lost loved one. Church can be a hub of life, a place for all people in whatever circumstance. Being part of that means you live and work alongside a vastly bigger cross section of people in your area and that is truly wonderful.

So that's the vision, and is what gets me out of bed in the morning. But how, if that takes your fancy, do you even begin to get involved in these often old and mysterious places? How do you even know which church to go to? And what on earth is going on when you actually do brave it and go along to a service? Never fear I've been there and that is where the next post comes in - my insiders guide on how on earth to get to grips with church for the absolute beginner!

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