Sunday was a big day in the life of a couple of the Anglican Communities in Northwest London. The Church of the Hosannas and as well as St. Aidan’s Church both passed motions to ask our Diocesan Council to allow us to reorganize and become one parish; One community that will strive together to seek the leading of the Holy Spirit in this part of the Forest City.
On Sunday we heard a reading from Paul’s first letter to the people in Corinth. It would appear that folks there needed some instruction on how to be church. Paul shared his wisdom. That wisdom was to remind the people of that first century community that they are not alone. He used the body as a metaphor for the church. “Christ is just like the human body—a body is a unit and has many parts; and all the parts of the body are one body, even though there are many.” As I said on Sunday, I believe that the Church has behaved in a way that might lead one to believe that we have never heard this particular message before. Never mind the thousands of different denominations of Christianity; we have lived in our denomination as if we have never heard these words of Paul. Parochialism is so rampant that we are often unaware of what is happening in the Anglican Church just down the street. In its worse manifestation, we often do not care. Hard as it is to believe, some in our churches are jealous of success in other parishes. Some almost relish it when another community fails or when people leave on church in a desperation or a huff and show up at another. It is easy to forget that when we move people from one Anglican church to the next we are simply rearranging furniture of the deck of … well you know what I mean.
It is in the face of that reality that the Church must now make decisions about how we seek the leading of the Spirit in these very challenging times. Paul’s prescript is unclouded and clear. We are not meant to be in this alone. God chose that we should be community and that we should honour all parts of the community. Each part has a place and brings a gift to the whole. If one hurts we all hurt and if one rejoices we all rejoice. Paul reminds us,
But as it is, there are many parts but one body. So the eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you,” or in turn, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” Instead, the parts of the body that people think are the weakest are the most necessary… If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it
It would be easy enough for us as Church to look to the weaker Anglican communities in our diocese and simply wait for them to run out of steam, out of energy, out of cash, out of people, out of desire. It would be easy to just ask the last person out to turn off the lights. But it would be to suggest that we cannot see the call of Jesus to be a people who care about a sister, a brother or a community that struggles. Indeed the weakest parts of the body are most necessary! Jesus was always present to the vulnerable first. Those vulnerable often bring the richest expressions of faith.
So having opportunity to be in relationship with Hosannas these past months has been life giving for our community. We hope to broaden our relationships to come to know our friends at other churches in the Northwest to ask how we might be a better witness to Jesus in this Northwest community. In many ways our churches have accepted mediocrity as a sufficient benchmark for bearing witness to Jesus. Yet Paul finishes his instruction in chapter 12 with this: “Use your ambition to try to get the greater gifts. And I’m going to show you an even better way.” For Paul it is about seeking the greatest for God.
It is my prayer that our communities will be better equipped to seek a better, stronger, more fulsome witness of Jesus to the community by coming together. We are better together than we are apart. The many members of this body cannot do God’s work if we are oblivious and inattentive to the pain, suffering, or struggle of another part of the body. We also cannot do it well if we ignore the growth, joy, and strength of other parts of this body called the Church. We are in this together – Many members – One Body!
At St. Aidan’s the motion to reorganize was unanimous. At Hosannas the motion to reorganize passed with great ease. The people at Hosannas are celebrating their 125th Anniversary this year. The decision to reorganize was not easy. The Rev’d Anne Jaikaran has been a good pastor to the people at Hosannas and has offered care, support and love to people who in many ways are grieving.
Because of the good care they have received the people there now know that while they grieve moving from the location in which they have been church, they in no way cease to be church. In a very profound way they will celebrate their 125th Anniversary by acknowledging that they will continue to be church despite the challenges of our old models of ministry. In fact the courage that the people at the Hosannas have displayed is really about new life – it is about resurrection. As we continue to ask questions and seek the leading of the Spirit – it is the faithful folks at Hosannas that are showing leadership. They are using their ambition and love for God to seek the greater gifts and seek a better way. When we lay claim to God’s direction for the church in the Northwest of London, it will be said, that the small and dedicated group of followers at Hosannas made the most important and first steps to lead the church towards a richer and more fruitful expression of the Body of Christ. Thank to The Rev’d Anne Jaikaran, the Wardens, and all followers of Jesus at Hosannas we are given a strong example of being good leaders by making difficult choices. Thanks to the people, the wardens and the followers of Jesus and St. Aidan’s we are given a strong example of being good leaders by making choices that call us into new and dynamic relationships. Thanks to two of these communities we have a seed planted that hopefully will grow. There are more conversations to begin and further prayers to be offered. While Sunday came after six months of relationship building, this was not the end of a process. We must strive for the greater gift — Sunday was the beginning of a journey that I pray will welcome many more travellers on the road.