we had lunch yesterday with some great friends - and it was barbecue weather, yay!

on talking to them i had a hankering for a day when church felt much simpler. it wasn't that their church was problem free, or they didn't have their frustrations. just that it felt like there was a possibility for them that the church politics that are rife wherever you are and whichever church you belong to, was stuff that didn't touch them, or that they simply could choose to let others 'get on with that'. i remember when church used to be like that for me.

in the old days :-), when i was a voluntary youth worker and generally a law unto myself (what's changed i hear you cry), the church i belonged to pottered along, the vicar trusted us to a degree, which basically meant we got on with our work, he got on with his, and ne'er the twain met really. we spent our time with teenagers, talked about life, the universe and everything, including, sometimes, jesus, and we might have grumbled that the rest of the church didn't 'get' young people (or us), but we were a happy bunch, teaching about jesus.

looking back we were in our own little world.

and then, it seemed as though 'disaster' struck.

our community which had been able to bumble along together, with different thoughts about some things and the usual frustrations of the church community (you know, what type of coffee to have, that sort of thing), but generally able to be held together despite this, because we loved jesus...this community was forced to formalise the divisions. those who thought in a certain way about certain things, were encouraged to become more certain about the things they were certain of, and so the idea of simply bumbling along with unfocused thoughts was simply not allowed.

the thing is that most churches i know are like this. it isn't that all the people think the same things, it's that they think the same things about the things that matter to them. the other stuff can remain unfocused as long as jesus is still proclaimed lord. but for me the sharp focusing on the 'other stuff' meant that suddenly people that had bumped along next to me, were no longer happy to do that, and to be honest, neither was i. the divisions were clarified and we were called to stand on either side. i doubt any of us was on the 'winning side'.

but when i reflect on that time and how we used to be, i recognise that what i had thought was 'disaster' actually caused people to think through things they had been unwilling to think about. sure there were ways about which that was done which were pretty excruciatingly painful, that felt like being fed to the lions, a steep learning curve when you have no idea that 'church politics' exists. but in the end it sharpened me, it refined me and it made damn sure that i always ask the question 'what God and so what?' of things that i believe and the ethics that stem from that belief. you see it matters to me that what i believe about God makes me the kind of person that is generous, gracious and kind. it matters to me that i do not become mean and suspicious.

i have talked a bit about how that church experience did damage. and it did.

trust and courage took a severe hit.


i grew in wisdom

i grew in strength

i grew in grace

i grew in hope

simple as that

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