Magazine article Anglican Journal

What Colour Is Your Church?

Magazine article Anglican Journal

What Colour Is Your Church?

Article excerpt

MY FRIEND IAN is a great guy, but why he persists in joining his wife at Sunday service is beyond me. For years, he "did" the flowers at their church, using his considerable talent to create beautiful, seasonal bouquets. Whenever the church needed new resource materials, Ian volunteered his expertise to shepherd the church's message to the next level. He also took the challenging night shift for the Out of the Cold program, making sure that the men sleeping over stayed tucked in, week after week.

It couldn't have been easy doing all this volunteer work, especially since Ian admits that he still feels like an outsider.

That's gotta hurt.

He says people talk around him and despite his outgoing nature, he finds it difficult to connect. There's a cliquey-ness about the place and people just don't seem that interested or accessible. The rituals, always mysterious, have remained so, rendering his observance wooden and meaningless. Referring to the arcane language, the Anglican-speak, Ian's pained expression says, "Let's not even go there!"

I think Ian goes to church because he loves his wife. And his wife, a cradle Anglican, loves her church.

Who loses in this, really? My friend may never get to experience God inside the doors of this particular worship space, but to my mind, the tragedy runs far deeper. By being unable, for whatever reason, to recognize and respond to the needs of others, even for those predisposed to get involved, this church is firmly slamming the door on its own future. Preaching to the converted eclipses true passion, and the spirit of gratitude and divine welcome is replaced with a kind of wretched xenophobia. Somewhere along the line, complacency became confused with meaningful engagement, and for some, like my friend Ian, relevant worship has taken on the appearance of puppet theatre.

When even one person is shut out by a congregation, it colours the whole, like a single drop of ink in a glass of water. And the impact can have a domino effect, like a sucker punch to the collective solar plexus. Who can blame "outsiders" for being skeptical when attempts to connect are shunned?

Why do you go to church? To worship God? …

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