Friday, 17 October 2008

The Cross Stitch Church - a preface

I shared some of my musings with the good folk of Brierfield the other day and it provoked quite a reaction - nearly all of them lept to the defense of the institutional church Feeling that it has a vital place within the Body of Christ alongside freeer and more organic expressions of church. I'm still not convinced but am willing it to be so as it would revalidate for myself a fresh sense of call to the mother ship of Methodism. Anyway, Laura keeps nagging me to get down to business on the blog rather than just muse about randomness so here is the first bit of semi-serious stuff.

I was in Gloucester today and had a great time at lunch with my good friend Joe Knight. He's written a little book - i've often teased him about it - and it began as a way to get on to paper or screen some of his reflections and thoughts as he pootles along through life with Jesus. I'm feeling inspired and motivated and hope for something of the same. Here goes.....

About six weeks ago i took an assembly in which i showed a gift given to me by a lovely lady in Gloucester as a wedding present. It was an assembly at our church primary school, a slot i fill virtually every week at 10:10am on Wednesday's. The assembly's theme was God's creation and the children and i were thinking about how great it is that we are the pinacle of God's creation.

I showed the children the aforementioned gift. It is a cross stitch of an old fashioned footballer dressed in similar (not totally correct) colours to my beloved Bath City FC. It was a mixture of a wedding present and a leaving present, given to me by Mrs Audrey Fugler - a member of St John's Northgate Methodist Church, Gloucester (a catchy little church name if ever there was one), where i had been the minister for a couple of years.

The cross-stich was impeccable - not a single stitch out of place and looked great as i showed it o the children in assembly. From the front the picture is clear, the intent is obvious and it is a work of art - something in which someone has invested a great deal of time and energy, fashioning it to its completed form. If you turn the image around however, it is a mixture of untied threads - the image is mostly clear - but its a mess; its just all the loose ends. I had been wondering for a while whether this simple peice of needlework may be a bit of a picture of the church. From one side it is a pristine, precise picture - clear in its intentions, looking beautiful, with much evidence of a creator's time, care and attention. From the back, the image can be seen but its unclear, tatty and messy. Maybe the front of the picture represents God's view of the church. He sees it as it is meant to be. He loves the church, He died for the church, He's coming back for the church. From God's perspective maybe its clear where it's headed, there is a clear and defined image and it looks good. Maybe the back of the picture details what we see. A reasonable amount of clarity in what the creator intended but there is lots of mess in the way. Perhaps what ministers, or rather what every lover of Jesus is trying to do whether part of an institutional church or in an unlabelled gathering of like-minded folk, or alone even, is to turn that picture around gradually. We are longing for our society to see through us the creators intended image reflected perfectly and clearly for all to see. What we see is the mess, but our efforts are invested in turning around the picture so that the creators intended image is obvious to us and to all who live this side of heaven.

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