Thursday, 29 January 2009

The Cross-stitch church - what will happen to the pattern? 1) Leave it as it is?

I'm reading currently Martyn Atkins' book Resourcing Renewal and have found it surprisingly optimistic in its view of traditional church or 'inherited church' as Martyn calls it. He tells tales of inherited churches that have found renewal and have therefore made strides towards actually living and breathing something of what 'real' church is about. For me, reflecting on the image of church as a peice of cross-stitch there are three main options for what could possibly happen next. Remembering the concept of the church being the pattern and design woven by God the Great Artist the first option is to leave the pattern as it is.

In a number of the homes of people in my congregation there are cross-stitch designs hung up on the wall, or propped up on the mantle peice, my own grandparents have many in their living room. They are of country scenes, maybe churches, maybe trains or other vehicles, but one thing is for certain the design has always been what the design is. It is no doubt an expression of creativity, a work of art, but once it has been created that is it - it will always be what it will be - a dormant, inactive work of cross-stitch. I guess this is the first major point as to why this image of the church as cross-stitch breaks down. God is consistently longing to remake and remould what He has created, it His plan for individuals and surely is His plan for communities of faith also. A peice of cross-stitch cannot be remade or remould, its exists as it is. Or does it? (i will reflect on this next time).

So we're left with the question - does God want to leave the church like those cross-stitch designs in old people's homes - left to gather dust, never changing or evolving? It is my firm conviction that to answer 'yes' to this question is to misunderstand the character and personhood of God fundamentally as revealed in the Scriptues and revealed in human experience. Surely churches that are content to let things be as they always have been will end up gathering dust, will decay and continue to function detached from an experience or understanding of who God is and what He is like. One option for the church is to leave things as they are, ignoring signs of decay, but surely this isn't really an option.
Also PS to Joe Hildred, i shamefully forgot again! But have put a reminder on my phone for sunday eve. PPS i stuffed Lincoln on Football Manager.

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