The walls came tumbling down
There’s an old Gospel song that we used to sing called (I think) Joshua Fit The Battle of Jericho. It had a catchy tune and it was an amusing take on the story of Joshua’s invasion of Jericho by means of trumpets. It might even have had actions to go with it – I’m sure many of us could still belt it out now if pressed.
It contained the line …and the walls came tumbling down…
It popped into my head in a recent meeting when a comment was made about increasingly porous boundaries across the church. Thanks to COVID-19, the church has taken to the internet in a whole variety of ways and the ‘way we’ve always done things’ has necessarily changed. While we might buckle with the sheer number of Zoom meetings in any given day, it is possible to gather people from across the state, even across the Assembly, to discuss matters that we have in common much more cheaply, quickly and (hopefully) effectively than has ever been possible before.
I don’t think anyone really thought this degree of change was possible in tBe church prior to the COVID disruption, but it was actually accomplished within a matter of weeks. And aside from business meetings, it’s even possible to worship with a range of different communities around the world if you feel so inclined. While I’ll be quite glad to see the back of virtual worship, I’ve loved being able to gather with my godmother in Tasmania from time to time – she nurtured me in the faith and we worshipped together often.
One of the unforeseen consequences of decisions that have been made in the church over the last forty odd years
has been the trend towards increasing fragmentation. We opted to do away with parishes and we’ve favoured a model of lone ranger ministry instead of team ministry. In doing so, we’ve diluted the intent of the Basis of Union and its commitment to an interconciliar church and inadvertently fragmented the household of God. Ministers and
Congregations can simply decide to attend to their own ‘patch’ and avoid any interaction with other ministers, congregations or other councils of the church. Shocking, I know, but nevertheless quite common.
Now, however, in the virtual gatherings and discussions that have been made possible by the COVID disruption, there appears to be a growing recognition that we really are ‘all in this together’ and that we are collectively responsible for the church both now and into the future, not just for our own ‘patches’.
This experience sharply represents the question to which the church must always attend: what is God saying to us now?
• How do we lift our eyes to reconnect with
God’s bigger picture?
• How do we understand ourselves collectively- disciple, Congregation member, Presbytery member, Synod, etc. – and start to imagine a whole church framework to explore God’s purpose for, call to the church for the future?
• How can we stop defending territory?
• The territory of the way we’ve always done things
• The territory of ‘us’
• The worship territory, the music territory,
the morning tea territory
• and all the battles over detail that go on
to defend those territories?
Our (Church) landscapes aren’t all the same.
While the purpose of the church remains the same, the particular ways in which that plays out is different in different places – church in a small rural town is different to church in the centre of the city to name just one distinction.
But collectively our responsibility is to witness to Jesus Christ in the whole Church and our collective challenge is how best to support and resource that witness to be vital and (hopefully) transformative in all the different landscapes of the Synod.
While it’s tempting to think that we’re living in unprecedented times and we don’t know what to do and we need to just wait until either the way becomes clearer (preferably obvious and easy) or someone comes to the rescue
and makes it all better. Neither scenario has anything to do with faithful discipleship and both are a version of magical thinking.
Whatever the circumstances, the work of the church is the same – to proclaim in word and in deed the gospel of Jesus Christ!