Tubbs and Edward run the local shop, despite the fact it is far away from the actual centre of the town. However, they believe themselves to be local and will protect their localness by any means...Have you ever experienced churches like that? Self-obsessed, paranoid, sourly political, dwindling disgracefully. There’s a lot of it about. Here’s to us, who’s like us? And the enemy is Them; everyone else; diocese, deanery, whatever. Visitors sometimes encounter weird attitudes and assumptions in Entirely Local shops — and churches:
Of course the particular local people, congregation, parish, whatever, with whom you do your Christianity is a key part of the delvery system. But it isn’t everything. The National Deaneries Consultation at Swanwick is a biennial opportunity for area deans and lay chairs to raise their sights a bit. I’ve been working there this weekend with Janice Price, missiologist. Area deans and lay chairs from over 20 dioceses have been looking beyond their particular trenches, aided and abetted by resource people and ideas from all over the country.
Ecclesiologically, Christianity is a Universal reality, a new humanity, a global (= “Catholic”) reality, locally delivered. Jesus said his Kngdom was yeast inside, not top down or bottom up. NT Christians necessarily did Church bottom up not top down, mainly because there wasn’t a top, and the whole thing wasn’t institutionalised yet in that way. The Reformation was about recovering this authentic perspectve out of the institutionalism and powergaming of Western Christendom, which Eastern Orthodox Christians had never surrendered to as a total vision anyway. You can see the diocese, not just the congregation, as the local church. Doing so can free up relatonships and attitudes for mission, if only we let it.
So the value of the Deanery is not about structures but relationships; its strength is not geometry, but mission process. We have to work missionally and relationally, refusing to surrender to the boring old Tubbs ’n Edward Blockhouse mentality. Response points from the floor at the final Bible study and reflection Janice and I led together were encouraging:
Unlocking — Building relationships — Running with Change — Sharing faith with confidence — recognising barriers — Investment — keeping Jesus central, who valued his disciples in spite of their failure — Serving — Thinking the unthinkable (Mission Possible) — We are where diksciples were in John 20 (behind locked doors for fear of...?) — Imagination.
They reminded me of Greg Ferguson’s powerful, inspiring summary of Church history, Fast Forward, and his passionate comment on parochialism and narrow denominationalism:
Don’t be foooled by the joyful sound,The wisdom of the old; the passion of the young. Can you imagine what could be done?
Don’t step over the dividing line;
You stick to your kind: I stick to mine.
Tribes of the global population,
races and denominations,
Bowing before the same God,
but would rather die than gather under the same roof.
I want to ask you, my Church,
how have you survived?
What mighty engine keeps your cells alive?
What great heartbeat has sustained you,
When pain contorts you and sin stains you?
Through the trough of human sorrow,
Who has lifted you to tomorrow?
There are and always have been
The invisible ones,
who never made a name,
the brick and pillars, the crossbeams of the Church,
who stood up for justice,
Stooped down to serve,
Reached out to heal,
Who sheltered the defenceless,
Mothered the motherless,
Lifted the depressed,
and loved the despised.
It matters that they lived,
It matters how they died,
It matters that they answered the call.
the foundations would groan and crack,
and finally fall...