“Often we hear the remark that we have live in the world without being of the world. But it may be more difficult to be in the Church without being of the Church. Being of the Church means being so preoccupied by and involved in the many ecclesial affairs and clerical "ins and outs" that we are no longer focused on Jesus. The Church then blinds us from what we came to see and deafens us to what we came to hear. Still, it is in the Church that Christ dwells, invites us to his table, and speaks to us words of eternal love.
Being in the Church without being of it is a great spiritual challenge.” – Henri Nouwen
I like this quote of Nouwen. It is hard sometimes to put in word what it is to be held back by the church. I think this is a good quote to describe how the church can cause what my friend Sweeny calls a “paralysis of analysis.” There are times that the church seems to move at an imperceptible speed and really gets nowhere in a hurry. The church has spent centuries telling people to be in the world and not of it. Nouwen in his brilliance has twisted that plea to the church – reminding us all that all institutions need to be reminded of the need for humility.
The church too, faces issues that sometimes make it a corrosive place to be. I think the church has special communities (I believe St. Mark’s by-the-Lake to be one) which are working to be the people of God, with disciple-ing for Jesus as their main focus. Yet many, many more churches are preoccupied entirely with the ecclesiology of the church – in other words the constitution or function of the church. The church institution itself is completely preoccupied with itself. One need only go to a meeting or two beyond the parish level to quickly discern that Jesus is not a part of the conversation.
Yes I think the church is the place where we gather at the table with Jesus and the place where we worship him. It is a place where we can be community, where we can be together, where we can seek to be like Jesus. We can be in the church and not of it. We need more parish communities to seek to be in the church but not of it. We need people who want to be in the church but not of it.
Yesterday was Soup Day at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake and was a great success. We were full again of people who I believe were there in the church to be community. We had Jessica Worden present with us yesterday to preach. Jessica is the student at Huron University College who last spring received the St. Mark’s by-the-Lake Scholarship in Christian Leadership. This was good for the community to see that the work of reaching out, making bold decisions and living faith has an impact. This is sometimes not in keeping with the ecclesiology. That is to say most people who are of the church would not have the imagination to budget $3000 of the annual budget to be spent outside the church as an ongoing commitment to “raising up” new leaders for the church of tomorrow. I am proud of this scholarship because it is not from investment income or ‘old money” as so many gifts to the college are. This is a commitment by a church community who see it as a part of their responsibility to take an active role in supporting those who are discerning calls to ordained ministry. It is also a gift from a parish that knows full well that ordained leadership is not everything. They have focused this scholarship towards those seeking orders in response to what they have witnessed – weak leadership from clergy. There are periods in the past 50 years where this parish would have folded if it were not for strong lay leadership. These folks survived in spite of ordained leadership and not because of it. It is my prayer that the efforts of this church community will result in ordained leadership that can measure up to the strong lay leadership that they themselves know and have witnessed.
All that being said it was a great Sunday with an excellent soup luncheon thanks to Nancy Shulgan, Nickki Adams and Thomas Adams who set things up and organized it all and many thanks to all who made delicious soups. Man we love t