At the end of this month a Ministry Settlement Board will be formed to commence the process of seeking a new minister to serve here at the Community of St Aidans. This is not something to be entered into fearfully, but with great expectation and hopefulness of what you may discover about yourselves, our community and the kind of person you may wish to lead you on the next step of your journey.
A helpful way of approaching this process is to ask questions. When we ask questions, it enables us to come with openness and expectation seeking, that which is waiting to be discovered just below the surface. This is not the first time I raised the possibility of asking questions, for in my first contribution for you in the then Newsletter in February 2010, I wrote:
‘……….This is a reminder, that the church, no longer has a monopoly on the sacred, and yes there is a revival of spirituality in our society, which in one sense this has bypassed the church. In particular the mainline churches are not seeing increased attendance, rather it is the opposite. No longer is spirituality, the prerogative of the church, the by-product of religious life and devotion, we are now having to face the fact that spirituality is itself larger, greater and has never been able to be contained by any particular church or religion.
This new spirituality is not centrally co-ordinated, with a head office in Wellington; rather it flows naturally from within the soul of a person seeking new meaning for their spiritual needs first, with little regard for institutional requirements.
When I have taken funerals over the last few years, I have lost count of the number of people who have expressed to me in their words: ‘the church is not for me’, ‘they are too narrow,’ ‘they are too judgemental and too constricting,’ ‘I will go elsewhere to have my spiritual needs met.’
I am sure you have heard these kinds of comments before, and we may well say, here at St Aidan’s we are not like that, that may be true. But alas, unfortunately we are all tarred with the same brush, and perception is everything.
This then raises questions, around how might a local congregation such as St Aidan’s function in this salad bowl of diversity and constant change? We CANNOT be all things to all people we need to ask questions, to discover new ways of being church.
- Who are we?
- What kind of congregation are we becoming?
- We may describe ourselves as a family church, what kind of family are we becoming?
- Is that kind of family do we want to be?
- What kind of congregation will we leave as our legacy?
- What can we do well, within the resources that we have?
I believe that we have a unique place as a faith community, being at the edge of society, this may well be a good place to be. For when I read the gospels, Jesus was constantly at the edge of his society, for there he offered healing to those whom society had also pushed to the margins.
I must admit, that I kind of like the idea of the church being at the edges of society, there is something real and honest about that metaphor and imagery. This then raises more questions for me, what kind of church functions healthily at the edge or margins of society? What qualities do we need as a community of faith to live at the edge of society? What might we need to change to ensure we survive at the edge?
In this article I have sought to raise your awareness and ask some questions, I don’t have the answers, but I will walk and wait with you, as you and I live the questions, for in their own time answers will come, leading us along unmarked pathways into an unknown future.
I close with a quote from Archbishop Rowan Williams from his book: Where God Happens – Discovering Christ in One Another
“ He (Jesus) does not stop working in the church when we Christians are wicked and stupid and lazy. The church is not magic, much as we would love it to be – a realm where problems are solved instantly and special revelations answer all our questions and provide a shortcut through all our conflicts. It is pre-eminently and crucially a community of persons, and a place where holiness takes time and where the prose of daily faithfulness, and, yes, sometimes daily boredom have to be faced and blessed, not shunned or concealed. And in the sacrament of the Eucharist, we see in visible and tangible form what it means for Jesus to be pledged to this world, the Body that is always there as the community gives thanks with him and through him.”
Reading the above, I am reminded that since I wrote those words, we have changed and continue to change as a community of faith. Who could have dreamt what we have accomplished with and in God, over the last five and half years. We asked the questions and in the asking, asked more questions. We discovered some answers and we still await answers for more questions that are still to be formed.
I find the above quote from Rowan Williams a welcome reminder to keep asking the questions, along with having a realistic expectation and appreciation of what the church is and what it is not, for the living of these days.
Meanwhile peace and courage in our living the questions