Last Sunday I went to my old church. It was really lovely to be there, to see people i hadn’t seen for up to 8 years when i first went overseas, to meet children of friends for the first time, to see and smell the familiar doughnuts and coffee (i didn’t have a doughnut but i did manage to spill the entire contents of my cup of tea over the serving table!). Church for me is a funny business, I have this love hate relationship with it! By church i mean the thing we do on Sunday mornings and the processes around making it all happen. A good friend of mine asked me about the churches i had been part of over since being at Vineyard and if I had learnt anything about what i appreciate about church, what i look for. As i reflected on the churches i have been part of over the last 8 years spent in 7 cities across 4 countries and continents, i realised a couple of things.
Being part of a church actually matters deeply to me, but discontent and frustration rises often because i crave authentic fellowship but often experience a superficiality on several levels. I know i do best when i exist in other’s hearts and minds and they exist in mine – not just when we are together, but perhaps more so when we are not. I need to be able to be real, and i really want you to be real with me too, its in that place that i can hear Jesus’ voice in yours and i hope you do in mine. I want to inspire and be inspired by God’s faithfulness in the everyday and the extraordinary as we share our eclectic journeys from the last week. But i wonder if for many of us we have grown to expect less from church? I know i do, i resign myself to an experience of social rituals held together by an army of busy beavers doing their best get it all right and try and make space for God’s presence in the process. Sometimes God snaps me out of my apathy by turning up and blessing all these efforts, reminding us all for a moment that there’s more to whatever it is we call church. Often either he doesnt or i dont see it, and i leave disappointed but hungry to be with God and relieved to find him in the quiet of my solitude at home.
So, yeah, its helpful for me to start naming some of this stuff, to better understand what is happening for me, and so to walk in grace and bring the fellowship i yearn for as i settle back in Oxford and find my place in ‘church’ again.