Beauty, flexibility, inclusivity and integrity. 4 resolutions for the Church.

So 2015 is here.

New Year is typically a time for making resolutions and expressing hopes for a better future.

The reality is that most of us who make resolutions don’t keep them. Resolutions require effort and commitment. Wishes, are somewhat easier! Do Christians often confuse resolutions with wishes? When we ask God to intervene are we accepting that we can’t act in our own strength in any given situation? Or, are we instead asking God to let us off the hook, relegating our prayer to a wish (not even a hope!).

Resolutions in a Christian sense can be thought of as hopes brought into reality through, yes our prayers, but also our commitment? Just a thought.

So what would be my resolutions for the Church, or at least the small bit of the Church, with which I am intimately involved this year?

I would choose four resolutions.

Stop, pause:

I need to be honest. I did not choose my resolutions unaided. I need to thank my daughter who I phoned before a debate in Oxford on ‘what the Church has to offer the next generation.’ So, thank you Lilly for offering: beauty, flexibility, inclusivity and integrity. Out of the mouth of (not babes) teenagers; whatever!

It strikes me that we need to rediscover beauty;  transcendent beauty, in a bland and plastic age. The ‘beauty of holiness’ opens us up to the transcendent taking us out of the realm of the ordinary and mundane, for a short period, before returning us there refreshed and changed.

May your Church this year be a place of beauty.

Churches like athletes, and like so many other ‘structures’ need to be flexible, otherwise they will crack! Churches, like all institutions, whose growth is built on a monochrome way of doing things or, worse, a uniform set of beliefs will crack in the long-term. Jurgen Moltmann puts it like this: ‘a foundation which demands uniformity is a foundation not for life but death.’ I hope that within each and every church diversity of thought is encouraged, flexibility of mind is facilitated, and authentic diversity is welcomed. This will require a new and far more flexible approach to ministry. In the absence of flexibility the best we can hope for is a cultic style of leadership and the worst excesses of ‘priestly behaviour.’

May your church be a school of flexibility.

I enjoyed having a ‘non Church goer’ staying with me before Christmas (he did come to a carol service). Now my friend has a profound understanding of the character of Jesus. His rationale for non attendance is simply this: Jesus was inclusive, the church isn’t. This is a stinging critique but is it true? I think in large part he is. There is of course an ongoing dialogue between flexibility and inclusivity, and real learning, I suspect, occurs where the two meet?

May your church be a hostel of inclusivity. 

Finally, integrity. Integrity is our ‘meta hope.’

Integrity incorporates the ‘beauty of holiness’,  ‘renewal of the mind’ and the welcoming of the ‘stranger in our midst.’ Integrity implies a church that is confident in its mission (the bringing in of the Kingdom of God), resolute in adhering to biblical standards (refusing to be impressed with, or subservient to,  earthly powers and idols) and a commitment to loving service and the pursuit of  justice.

May your church and mine be houses of integrity.

Amen

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