24-7 Prayer (2012)

This past week we had another time of 24-7 prayer at church.

24 hours a day for a week there was someone in our prayer room, keeping watch like the watchmen of Jerusalem, worshiping and interceding without ceasing. (Well, almost. I think we lost a few hours on Tuesday afternoon, but, you know, near enough).

The week arrived at the perfect time for me. There’s been all sorts going on in my head and my heart in the past month but it’s been one of those situations where it just seems to big to actually pray about, when you don’t know where to start. So to have a week where I was “forced” to come before God with it all was amazing.

Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.
(Exodus 33:11 ESV)

The week was like a crazy journey for me. Every time I went in to the room it felt like God was showing me the next step along the way.

It started with just seeking Him, asking that He would meet us all like He met Moses. Then I spent a couple of hours reading through Song of Songs and just catching something of God’s love for the church and for me individually.

You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride;
you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes,
with one jewel of your necklace.
How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride!
(Song of Solomon 4:9-10 ESV)

Then I was drawn to consider the person of Jesus and his work on the cross. I’ve been struggling with this for some time, wrestling with what precisely took place there, what it achieved and how. I looked particularly at the sacrificial practices of the Old Testament and the language used around Christ in the book of Hebrews, then to the more well known passages in Paul’s writings. It was good just to sit with these things for a while, to let the scripture settle in my head and grasp something of it all just a little more firmly.

My next slot focused more on how I see myself, how God sees me and the discrepancy between the two. But then on Thursday, I realised how much my prayers and my whole God focus had been about me in the past few months. Even when I had been trying to focus on God it had been for my satisfaction, understanding and fulfillment. It was time to return to intercession, to standing in the gap, to praying on behalf of others, because in that place we gain a unique understanding of who God is.

If we fully comprehend who God is, intercession and asking Him for things will be our natural response. When we realise that His character is not a static one, that He is more than power and glory, that He is also love and justice, that He is active, we should no longer only want to praise His divine attributes but should also feel compelled to ask Him for change and transformation. As we do so, because intercession is not one way but changes us too, we understand more of who God is and praise Him all the more for it!

To finish our week we went up to the Crags (the cliffs that over look the city) and prayed for it all. I wondered as we walked up there how many others had gone before us. How many thousands of people, in hundreds of years, have climbed that hill and prayed over our city? What a mighty cloud of witnesses! And we continue to build on their work, in prayer and action.

I’m sad that the week is over, but excited to see where the fruits of it lead us as a church in the coming months. God is on the move.

One Weekend in Moffat

This past weekend was my church’s student weekend away and we all toddled on down to Moffat for a wonderful couple of days.

It wasn’t the intense experience of last year where God turned yet more stuff upside down, but more of a peaceful time of rest in His presence. I think, after a pretty tough semester, it was what we all needed.

I found it brilliant to be back in that kind of community living, even if only for a short time. To be eating with thirty other people again and have roommates once more was soothing for me. Being surrounded by the hustle and bustle, always having something to do and someone to talk to brought a comfort I’ve missed over the past few months.

It was also a blessing to have a slightly smaller group this year (35 compared to last year’s 55), almost all of whom I knew already. It meant there was a cosy, family atmosphere to the whole thing with no cliquey-ness. I really appreciated getting to know some folks a lot better and having quality time to spend with them.

We were working through a couple of chapters of Philippians in our meetings. Philippians has been instrumental in my journey of faith, being the book that was studied at the Holiday Club where it all began, so I was really looking forward to going back to it in depth once more. I’ve read it so many times and underlined almost every verse but it never fails to get me:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

(Philippians 2:5-10 ESV)

Amazing!

Also got some good time in to chat with our on of the church leaders who came away as well. He was very encouraging about everything that I posted about the other day (Change) and had some good advise about how to deal with the issues these changes throw up.

The highlight of the weekend was probably the huge game of Capture the Flag which we had on Saturday afternoon. Using all three stories of this massive house, about twenty of us battled it out. With socks in our back pocket so we could obviously catch each other, it became a lot like a game of full contact tag rugby. I’m going to have bruises for quite some time, my team’s pride probably the most bruised of all as we lost without even discovering where their flag was!

I love being a part of this community and am so grateful to God for all that he is doing in them and through them.

What Not to Say to a Single Woman in Your Church

Great post from Kevin De Young the other day about what we do not want to hear and yet, I’m pretty sure I’ve had every single one of these directed at me at some point.

“I keep praying for someone to come along for you.” Thanks for your prayers. I hope someone comes along too. Instead of praying for that, why don’t you pray that I would be growing in Christlikeness so that if Mr. Wonderful walks into my life, I would be better suited to be a helpmate for him.

Read all of them here: What Not to Say to a Single Woman in Your Church

SF2011: Homeless Church

This morning Bethany and I went to the Homeless Church which meets at the Embarcadero by the Ferry Building. It started here in the city about 17 years ago and now has two services every sunday, with up to two hundred people meeting together.

It was wonderful to worship in the open air, singing old school songs and not ministering to those who are homeless but worshiping with them. It was interesting to be the one entering on to their territory where they, in reality, are the superior ones. But they were very welcoming and many people approached us to say hello and talk. The man who we met on Homeless Plunge, Mike, was there so we spent some time talking to him and made new friends in Rick, James and Meredith.

They start with a time of worship and then serve coffee with cake/cookies (translate: biscuits) before the sermon is preached (today’s involved a ventriloquist’s puppet – those things never fail to freak me out) and afterwards they have a pancake breakfast.

One of the girls who we spoke to said how much she loved it there because nobody judged one another. She suffers from depression and paranoia and spoke of how “normal” churches place labels on “people like her” and condemn them but at Homeless Church she is welcomed, loved and supported.

One of the leaders, Stephanie, spent some time speaking to us about the lack of services for women in the city and the desperate need for more shelters and safe houses for them. She has such a passion for seeing something like that realised in the city; it was lovely to be able to pray with her.

I can’t wait to go back next week and to start dreaming of how I can take it all home.

Easter Vigil and High Mass

On Easter Sunday I went with a few friends to the 5am service at Old St.Paul’s, an Episcopal church here in Edinburgh.

From their website:

The service starts in quiet and darkness. A fire is lit, from which the great Easter candle – symbol of the light of the risen Christ – is lit and carried to its stand at the front of the church. An ancient hymn in praise of the Resurrection, the Exsultet, is sung, before we hear accounts from the Old Testament of God’s acts of salavation through history. The singing of the Gloria is greeted with a fanfare of bells and organ, and then we go the font where we renew the vows of our Baptism and are sprinkled with newly blessed baptismal water. The service continues with the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and ends with the joyous Easter form of the dismissal.

It was really quite something.

I’ve never attended a “high” anglican/episcopal service like that before and I thought it was just beautiful.

The solemnity and reverence for the occasion was infectious but it was still joy filled and hopeful.

I particularly liked it when the fire was lit at the back of the sanctuary and from that the Paschal candle was lit. Then, from that, some of the individual candles of the congregation were lit and we passed the flames between us, each person to their neighbour. I thought it was a brilliant image of the unity of the people there, of the manner in which the light of Christ can spread from person to person.

The first time we knelt, as the candle was processed, I was a bit like, “Oh, okay, this is odd…” but actually there’s a lot of power in that action and it quickly felt perfectly normal and appropriate. To kneel before the King on the day of his resurrection, to acknowledge his greatness and remind oneself of your humble position before him was really compelling.

I also liked the way that the readings began in Genesis and worked through the Scriptures, conveying God’s salvation history and plan for his people from the beginning.

After the readings and sermon we began the liturgy of Baptism where we remade our baptismal vows:

The Christian life means turning from evil and turning to Christ.

Standing  now with Christ, do you renounce evil?
I renounce evil.

Do you repent of sin?
I repent of sin.

Do you turn to Christ?
I turn to Christ.

Will you follow Christ?
I will follow Christ.

And renewed a commitment to the Christian life, which was very similar to the promises I made at my profession of faith:

As a disciple of Christ, will you continue in the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers?
With the help of God, I will.

Will you proclaim the good news by word and deed, serving Christ in all people?
With the help of God, I will.

Will you work for justice and peace, honouring God in all creation?
With the help of God, I will.

After this the rector (vicar/priest guy) went through the church sprinkling everyone with water. I got a full facefull but I don’t think it quite counts as baptism number 3!

After this we partook of the Eucharist (aka. communion). It’s the first time I’ve ever approached an altar to receive it from a member of the clergy and, again, it was a little odd – I was certain I’d mess it up some how but it was fine and another beautifully reflective part of the service.

And to finish we sang Thine be the Glory, which I was especially pleased about because I’m not certain it’s ever really Easter without it.

I don’t think I could worship like this all the time. There’s a lot of theology behind it all that I don’t agree with: a lack of congregational participation for one thing. Some of the history and symbolism behind it all is, however, fascinating and it brought to life my liturgy and theology classes from earlier in the semester. I think I might return if in the mood for something more reflective or passive but you can’t just belt out a tune at the top of your lungs and jump around a little which I’d miss.

So, 5am next year anybody?

Missional/Vocational Pastoring

I’ve been thinking for quite sometime about the pitfalls and deficiencies of this practice of “full-time ministry” that the church likes to engage people in.

Zach Nielson over at Take Your Vitamin Z posted an interesting reflection on his experience as church planter/pastor and Apple store worker on monday:

There have been two different seasons in my life when I have shared the Gospel the most frequently and both of those seasons happened to be when I worked a job outside the church. One was when I was waiting tables as a side gig when I was touring musician in Nashville, and the second one is where I am at now. It’s not hard to figure out. Relationships with unbelievers are structured into my life for 20 hours a week. We live among each other and our lives naturally intersect. Do you have a structure in your life that forces this upon you?

If our ministers weren’t continually cooped up in church, they could be setting the example in missional living. They could also better relate to the majority of the congregation’s experience in the working world. AND, in accepting a lesser salary, free up money to support other congregation members in working part-time and contributing hours to the ministry of the church.

Even Paul didn’t just do church stuff :

For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.

(1 Thessalonians 2:9 ESV)

So, there you have it: I don’t think that full-time ministry is correct practice. Y’all gotta get a job!

Law and Wisdom

A very interesting article was posted over at Desiring God yesterday.

Confessions of a Conflicted Complimentarian by Wendy Alsup, I suspect, voices the feelings of many women in the Church today, particularly those in the more conservative end.

In the churches where submission of women is emphasised, where the highest “rank” that they can rise to is Sunday School teacher, and the “biblical” model of womenhood which is taught is that of a good mother and wife, it can be incredibly difficult and frustrating for those women who aren’t wives or mothers or called to teach Sunday School.

What are we supposed to do?

I love Proverbs 31

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.  She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.  She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.  Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:  “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”  Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. (Proverbs 31:25-30 ESV)

I want to be that woman!

And there’s a lot of pressure to find that husband, be the perfect wife and raise little angels as children.

But, as Alsup points out, this wisdom is not the law.

She writes:

Scripture’s ideals haunted me. They hung over my head, and I felt condemned by the way they were presented to me by well meaning teachers.

Apart from the gospel.

Christ paid my debt to God, but he didn’t just bring my spiritual bank account to zero. Christ’s righteous life was then credited to my account. I went from being a prisoner with a sentence against them they could never pay off to a child of the king with all the resources that come with that position in God’s household.

. . .

In Christ, instead of feeling condemned by the law’s standard, I can lift my head. I can look at Scripture’s words to women, even the annoying Proverbs 31 wife, not with condemnation, but with hope and inspiration. Her children rise up and call her blessed. Yes, that is a great ideal. No, I can’t make it happen myself. Instead of hiding from God in condemnation or despising her as an unattainable standard, I turn to God in my need and find grace and mercy. In Christ, I can boldly access my Father in heaven and avail myself of his resources

We needn’t fear or resent this wisdom. It is not the standard. And it needs to stop being taught as such. Women can be all that God calls them to be, all that the woman in Proverbs 31 is, without a husband and kids because Christ has paid the debt and credited our account so that we can be filled with hope and fulfilled in our blessings.

Alsup puts this wisdom/law problem in brilliant contrast in a follow-up post on her blog (Practical Theology for Women):

Wisdom is not law. And wisdom is only wise when applied correctly in the right situations. You can’t read Proverbs the same as the 10 Commandments, yet in our fight against moral relativism, conservative Christians fear situational wisdom. The result is silly, one-dimensional conclusions.

Through our fear of diminishing the value or importance of Scripture we’re attempting to apply all of it in the same manner we would apply the 10 Commandments. But that is not the purpose of the proverbs, which are clearly written for certain situations. This doesn’t lessen their significance or usefulness for application when those situations arise but it should make us wary of setting ourselves standards that God Himself did not intend.

She finishes her post with an exhortation to listen to Paul’s words in Galatians to “walk by the Spirit” (5:16). Only by pressing into the Holy Spirit Himself can we ever hope to be able to “apply wisdom in wise ways without fear”.

I would like to get married and have children one day but I might not. And I have to be okay with that. I have to be certain of who I am in Christ regardless of that. I have to know that He is on my side and will provide me with all my needs and all kinds of adventures if wife-ness isn’t His plan. And I need to know that there is a church that will have my back if I don’t fit in to their vision of the ideal woman. That they will enable me, equip me, release me to be who I am, and not who they think I should be.

Another World is Possible

I love this.

October 21st 2002, a new Jubilee.

$10,000 formerly invested in the stockmarket merry-go-round released from the steps of Wall Street to say that another world is possible, in fact, it’s already here.

Brilliant.

It is risky, and yet we are people of faith, believing that giving is more contagious than hoarding, that love can convert hatred, light can overcome darkness, grass can pierce concrete . . . even on Wall Street

– Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution, Zondervan 2006 p.189

Where are our prophetic proclamations of the grace, love, mercy and justice of God? No matter how loud we preach it, the world won’t hear it in our churches. It’s about time we got out onto the streets again.

 

Exclusion

As part of my practical theology class this semester, we looked at the work of Miroslav Volf on Exclusion and Embrace.

It’s a fascinating topic because it is so easy to apply to our personal situations.

His model for reconciliation as embrace is very clever. It is a means of thinking of reconciliation as being much like a hug. With open arms we invite the other party into communication, we do so of our own accord and show that we are willing to reach for the other. Then we wait. We wait for the other party to return the embrace, not invading their space but inviting them too to open their arms. Then both parties close their arms, conveying the need for reciprocity but not assimilation: boundaries are maintained. Finally, we open our arms again: the two do not become one, we must let the other be other and ourselves be ourselves.

Of course, if you know a particularly violent hugger or you’re someone who doesn’t really appreciate hugs, the weight of the model might be a little lost on you but I’m sure you get the idea. And Volf says that when we look to the open arms of Jesus on the cross we can see the reconciliation of God and humanity at work through embrace.

I’m sure we can all think of a time, probably many, when we have felt excluded. An element of exclusion is inevitable within any gathering of people because as each inclusion takes place, an exclusion must also occur. It’s becoming ever more apparent that to create an “inclusive” society, you must exclude as well. Volf calls this the modern “barbarity”. Sometimes this exclusion is obvious: we eliminate those whom we don’t want to have to include. At other times it can be more subtle: assimilation (you must become like us), abandonment (we keep you at a safe distance) or symbolic exclusion (through language, media etc).

An very interesting exercise that we as the church should regularly be doing is considering how our meetings might exclude people. Think about your church’s entrance. What in that foyer/ doorway/noticeboard could someone interpret as exclusive? Is it open and inviting or does it suggest already that you have to be “one of us” to belong here? And when someone sits in your sanctuary/auditorium, are they invited in to all that is happening or do they only see many backs turned to them? What about the way the service is presented: the use of language, media, technology, even how people are dressed and the gadgets that they are using give an impression of who is welcome in our congregations and who is not.

I’m not suggesting we go to the length of removing the crosses from our churches, as some have done to make their buildings “seeker sensitive”, or that we make everything as bland and basic as possible. We should still be open about who we are and what we stand for and how we do what we do. But we have to mindful that Christian circles are hard ones to crack. That not everyone can see or read the projection screens. That someone struggling to pay the bills might not appreciate being surrounded by iPods/iPads or having the offering basket stuffed under their nose. What provision do we make for families, or, perhaps more pressing, for single people? What are we doing to welcome those with disabilities? How are we welcoming people from every class and background?

When you walk in to church on Sunday look at it as though for the first time, as someone who has never been to church before, and look for the points of exclusion. Then find someone you’ve never spoken to or maybe even seen before and ensure that they are included.

What’s in a sermon?

Back home in Aberdeen, sermons were always about “consecutive expository preaching” – we’d work through one book of the Bible, beginning to end, over a number of weeks or months.

Here in Edinburgh, we have two series running concurrently, generally one working through a bible book/section, and one on a broader theme. Actually, we’re now on our third year of the sermon on the mount – each section becomes its own mini-series and, due to the nature of the sermon on the mount, more thematically based as well.

However, last month, we had three weeks with no bible basis for the sermon. In fact, I’m sure many people would have issue with it even being called a sermon. We were looking at the ABC’s of CCE – where we’ve come from (right back to the reformation and the anabaptists), where we’re going and how we can practically be involved now.

It’s not the first time there’s been little scriptural involvement in a service. I remember one meeting last year when we had the finance report instead of a sermon. One of our series last year was The Story, looking at the entirety of the biblical story throughout the course of the year; bible based but not passage focused or expository in any sense of the word. It’s a very different attitude than home, where one of my minister’s main reasons for continuing with evening services is the importance to him of providing two opportunities for the “ministry of the word” on a Sunday.

It’s given me cause to think about what the purpose of our Sunday gatherings is and how necessary consecutive exegetical preaching is. I am not diminishing the importance of Scripture (I think you’ll find a post over there <- where I just quoted Calvin – can’t get more reformed than that!) but simply exploring the purpose of church meetings and the Bible’s role within them. In fact, I’ll be very honest and say that there are times when I miss the bibleness of home!

When the believers come together in the New Testament (I’m pretty certain) the sole purpose is never just to hear a sermon:

Acts 2:42-47 – And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (ESV)

1 Corinthians 14:26 – What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. (ESV)

Of course, we must be mindful of Paul’s instruction to Timothy:

2 Timothy 4:1-4 – I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (ESV)

If the purpose of a Sunday meeting is to come together as a body of believers; to share together – our stories, our pains and joys, bread and wine; to worship; to learn; to do community: surely it is okay if preaching is not at the centre of this all the time. We’re not a community focused around a book, after all, but a community focussed around Christ. And sometimes you have to deal with the business of the community (such as the finances) or there’s a message you want to communicate to them (such as the plan for the year ahead).

My course in Practical Theology this semester has given me reason to think that the focus of the conservative, reformed church upon this type of preaching and service was originally a reaction against a Roman Catholic focus on Mass and what the reformers considered inaccurate biblical teaching. And then, more recently, a reaction against the charismatic/pentecostal movements who were focused upon revelation from the Spirit, leading reformed Christians to fear a moving away from the Word. It seems to me that we haven’t quite gotten over these fears and prejudices, despite the fact both the Catholic and Pentecostal denominations have changed their emphasis a lot in certain quarters.

I think there is a place for consecutive expository preaching. I think it is good and useful. But like all things it can be taken to extremes where there is no room for manoeuvre and the prompting of the Spirit is ignored for the sake of the preaching plan. I think the Bible is incredibly important, should be used in our worship and be the plumbline by which we measure everything we do. But I do not think that Church – the Body of Christ and Community of Believers – is solely about its explanation. This can be explored by other means and at other times. Doing Church, being Church is so much more.

Tradition in Worship

So I mentioned in the Tempestuous Worship post the other day that I think there is a role for tradition within contemporary worship.

First of all, lets blow some preconceptions out of the water.

The majority of people think that the “younger” generations want an all new, hyped up, super modern form of worship. WRONG. The majority of people also think us charismatic Christians want nothing to do with traditional forms of worship. WRONG. People also like to think that those of us with any interest in the alternative worship/emergent church movements are a bunch of hippies who’ll run a mile if you show us traditional texts/vestments/structures. WRONG.

And I can say that it is wrong because, as one of all of the above (young, charismatic and fascinated by alternative worhsip), I can tell you that I place a great deal of worth on tradition.

In my practical theolgoy lecture this morning, my lecturer shared this quote from Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, which I think about sums up what I want to say:

Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living

The Vindication of Tradition, 1984

I am not advocating doing things the way they have always been done because that’s the way we’ve always done them. But I do believe that the worship heritage of our forefathers and mothers has a lot to offer us; and we have the responsibility of keeping our history alive, of breathing new life into it, so it will not be forgotten.

No matter how contemporary/cool/informal your way of practising church is, you will be engaging with some form of tradition. The simple act of gathering together is, in itself, an ancient practice. If you partake of the eucharist, you’re using a two thousand year old tradition. If you’re singing songs together, reciting creeds, standing as the Bible is carried in/out, listening to someone preach . . . the list goes on.

There’s something wonderful about using the prayers of people who lived long before you and which you know have been said by possibly thousands of other believers. Re-interpreting an ancient practice is exciting and inspiring. And using the practices of a tradition/denomination other than your own can be revealing and unifying.

After years of the church thinking its not what people wanted of them, there’s something of a liturgical retrieval and revival going on. People want church that looks like church because the thing they value most is authenticity – they want you to be what you say you are and not try to be something you’re not. Church needs to stop trying to be cool, or new, or different and just be faithful to God.

Tempestuous Worship

I fear I may have mislead you somewhat with the title of this post. I’m afraid it’s not really about worship which is itself tempestuous (love that word by the way) but more about how worship can create tempestuous situations/people.

I’m doing a practical theology course this semester which I am absolutely loving. Highlight of my day, without a doubt. It’s fascinating, and totally what I feel like I came here to learn. What could possibly be more fascinating than how people put into practice and use all this theology stuff?! It’s certainly easier to grasp than 2000 years of discussion about how much human and how much God Jesus was and how the divine and human co-exist. Suffice to say, that’s not going to be a favourite topic of mine.

The unit that we are working through at the minute is Liturgy, but not just written liturgy as you might think when you hear that. Really, it’s about all of worship being liturgical (no matter how “high” or “low” your church might be), and how worship influences theology (or vice versa) and how worship is done in community.

Our tutorial question for today was: “Is there a role for tradition in contemporary Christian worship?”

Answer: YES

But that’s a post for another day.

Tutorial this morning was . . . interesting.

Tempers appear to run high when we discuss worship.

This is apparent even from the times when we’ve considered worship here on the blog. People get very passionate about how they think it should be done and are very unwilling to think there could be any other way.

I presume it’s because worship is something quite personal and we feel that we should own our worship. But what if “I” isn’t the point of worship? What if “we” is the point of worship? Surely, then we should be a lot more accommodating and a lot less tempestuous . . .

I don’t know I took too much away from today’s tutorial, other than how to keep my mouth shut and not throw things across the room, and maybe that conversations about worship should only be had when everyone is in a good mood . . .

Praying for Church Unity

Well, after tuesday’s dabble in Eastern Orthodox prayer, I have since partaken in Episcopalian, Community Church Edinburgh-ish and Roman Catholic prayer.

I have been LOVING it!

But the weirdest thing is that they’re all very similar . . .

I think it’s because of the services that I’ve been to (I missed the Salvation Army one on Monday and the Church of Scotland congregation goes tomorrow) but still, it’s quite eye opening to see how same-y we are. Every service has involved some kind of written/textual liturgy, using much of the same language. We’re all seeking to praise God, we all speak about Jesus with the same reverence, we all respect Scripture as God’s word. It can be difficult to understand, when we’re able to come together like this, why we’ve bothered separating in the first place! And if not that, at the very least, why we make such a big deal of it all the time and are desperate to make sure we’re not confused with that group of Christians, or that church over there.

Basically, we’re all part of one family, one body, and I think it’s time we started acting like it a little more. I really think churches should be sharing resources, and skills, and people. There’s no point in us all individually aiming for the same thing (the glory of God and to share the gospel in our community) and climbing over each other to do it. If we worked together, with our different ideas, strengths and heritages to support us, we’d be far more effective. Churches such as mine, which are larger and younger, in particular, should be doing more to support the older and smaller congregations. One of my favourite things about this week has been praying with more elderly members of the community, whose faith is just so inspiring. There’s so much we could learn from them and they would be so grateful of a little help in their churches from us.

I appreciate that half an hour meetings are perhaps not sufficient to show up the differences in our theologies, but surely the fact that they can show how unified we actually are says a lot more?

Oh, and I now have this odd desire to attend a quaker meeting at some point. Anyone volunteering to come with?