This article was written for the August 2021 issue of our parish magazine. Here it is again for you:
One of the most thought-provoking statements about church I have come across is:
“The Church exists primarily for the sake of those who are still outside it.”
It was said by William Temple over 75 years ago and has been much quoted since. One might argue that he goes too far, that a church where the care of faithful members is not a priority has lost its way, but nevertheless we are challenged by it. The church is most definitely not a club for likeminded people.
Our parish mission statement is to “worship God, follow Jesus, serve our neighbour and welcome all”. We want to be open to everyone who walks through our doors, but it’s quite difficult to do. When was the last time you went somewhere that was outside of your comfort zone? Walking into a room where you knew literally no one, had no idea what the rules (written or unwritten) were, where to sit or what to do? For many people walking over the threshold of a church is definitely a scary thing. And if here is something about you that is a little different from the typical worshipper in some way, then it is even harder.
So we have signed up to be members of Inclusive Church. Their vision statement is:
“We believe in inclusive church – a church which celebrates and affirms every person and does not discriminate.
We will continue to challenge the church where it continues to discriminate against people on grounds of disability, economic power, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, learning disability, mental health, neurodiversity, or sexuality.
We believe in a Church which welcomes and serves all people in the name of Jesus Christ; which is scripturally faithful; which seeks to proclaim the Gospel afresh for each generation; and which, in the power of the Holy Spirit, allows all people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Jesus Christ.”
Over the coming months expect to see magazine articles or hear sermons which mention some of those aspects, and we can look into what we can do to make it easier to walk through our doors and to become cherished members of a loving and supportive community. What would be really great would be to hear from other voices. How do you find church? What do you find difficult? Whether it’s a full magazine article, or a two-sentence verbal comment, your own experience or someone else’s, can you help the rest of us to understand your perspective, and so to become a church where we communicate our welcome more effectively? I look forward to your contributions, and to us becoming even better at sharing God’s love.