Sunday, 12 October 2008
What a weekend!
Ten of our team headed off to Cefn Lea in Mid-Wales for the annual gathering of NEO teams.
I think this was the fifth annual retreat and was the best by far. The whole weekend was based around the hebrew concept of 'Shalom'.
There are a number of definitions for this word- completeness, wholeness, well-being. None fully suffice. We were told it's kind of like our English word 'peace' but so much richer and broader than that.
When we talk about having peace in our country, town, community etc. it's often about the fact that there is no violence, no fighting etc. Shalom is not just about the absence of something, which is quite passive, but about being active in creating just relationships and living in a way that brings about justice to those around us. We were challenged to consider the way we interact with each other as a church and within our community; we were challenged to consider how we spend our money and time and how we use our possessions. Do we, as a church, live in such a way that others see beauty, generosity, justice, integrity, grace, selflessness? Is my home a place of hospitality? Does my bank statement speak of wise spending, simplicity and generosity? Does it show my concern for the poor? Are my relationships marked with grace, kindness and goodness?
Our team had space this morning to spend a few hours in a lovely wee static caravan to be open and honest with each other about many things. We looked at what it would mean for us to become more of a 'shalom' community. There was honesty, brokenness, laughter and repentance as we shared about the ups and downs of following Christ together. I guess that's a good start right there!
It's such an honour to be part of an amazing church community- not because of the services, the programs, the building- but the people. They shape me in so many ways for the better.
We're a small bunch. We don't make a big fanfare and don't have a huge impact on the world however each day I see my church community adding beauty to grey places, bringing light to the darkness and hope where there's despair.
I see so many churches that seem to constantly rush about doing this, that and the other but never really have much of an impact on anything or anyone.
I'm reading a book called 're-imagining church' at the moment. I found this quote which lays out some of the differences between 'organic' churches and 'institutional' ones.
'Institutional churches are a lot like trains. They are going in a certain direction, and they will continue in that direction for a good long time even if all hands try to make them stop. As with trains, the options for turning the direction of institutional churches are limited at best. If a switch or siding is available, the train could turn. So everyone aboard had best hope that he is on the right train headed in the right direction.
Organic churches, like those in the New Testament, are different. They are not trains, but groups of people out for a walk. These groups move much more slowly than trains- only several miles per hour at the fastest. But they can turn at a moment's notice. More importantly, they can be genuinely attentive to their world, to their Lord, and to each other.
'Like trains, institutional churches are easy to find. The smoke and noise are unmistakeable. Organic churches are a bit more subtle. Because they do not announce their presence with flashing lights at every intersection, some believe that churches like those in the New Testament died out long ago. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Organic churches are everywhere. Once you learn how to spot an organic church, you will soon discover groups of people everywhere meeting just like the New Testament church- as bodies, families, and brides, rather than institutions. Organic churches are groups of people walking with God. The trains pass them by all the time. Sometimes the people on board wave. Sometimes they cannot because the train is moving so fast that people going a few miles per hour just look like a blur.' Hal Miller.
I'm coming across so many people in my own denomination who are struggling to stay on the train. Some are finding it too fast, others are concerned that in spite of its speed and power and noise, it could be headed in the wrong direction. I'm not sure if you can be an organic church as described above when you are working within a very powerful train-like institution.
Time will tell!