What does it mean to be “church”..?
Over the next few months, using this blog, I thought it would be a helpful idea to think aboutsome of the defining marks of what it means to be church, for us here in Widcombe.
One of the phrases used on our parish website, to help define a little of who we are as church, is the tagline “finding family, creating community”. Family is central to all we are seeking to build and grow. Someone famously once said families are like fudge – mostly sweet with a few nuts. Indeed perhaps, many would recognise the challenges and, sometimes deep, pain that can exist within many domestic family situations. However, we believe forming church as family is central in our mandate to love and serve this community, city and beyond. As the actor Michael J. Fox believes, so we too would echo, “Family is not an important thing. It’s everything!”
Christians believe that family is the basic building block of society. The oldest of human institutions, older than the government, the church, the Patriarchs and the nations, going all the way back to those first parents, Adam and Eve. Family too is much more than simple biological lineage; it is rooted in an awesome God who exists in connected love between the relational three Persons of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The author of Genesis explains this sort of oneness when he writes “in the image of God he created mankind, male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). For Genesis, it is male and female together who express the image of God, where family is created, replicating and modelling this extravagant, generous and creative God.
And this therefore is indeed great news for all. For the church of God was never intended to become an institution or organisation, an exclusive club or powerful clique – it was always supposed to simply be a family: blended, diverse, gathered, exotic, life-giving, fruitful and rooted in love. One of my favourite scriptures is found in Psalm 68:5-6 and speaks of the God we worship and serve, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families”.
It is not good for man to be alone, because humanity is in the image of a relational Trinitarian God. The family portrays in flesh what God is in Spirit, and so church at its best should be a place of welcome, inclusion, encouragement, honour, challenge and growth.
Our longing is that both St Thomas à Becket and St Matt’s are places where all ages, all peoples are welcomed to explore not what it means to do church, but rather to be church, to truly become part of God’s glorious family.
Much love, Tim, Sarah, Ellie, Sam and Jo