Sept 2014: Being Together

My experience of churches includes a range of different types and sizes. I (Steve) find that I prefer smaller ones, where everyone has a chance to be known by most. I know that fellowship groups can solve the problem of size in larger churches, so that everyone is known by someone; but somehow, it goes better for me if I have a chance of knowing everyone. Of course, that means I can’t avoid anyone either - and so I have to face down my discomfort whenthat personI can’t get on with wants to talk to me. That’s part of accepting and listening to the other.

Being together as the people of God requires us to accept each other. It will not do for us to be selective, seeking out only those who are like us or believe in the same way as us. God is not limited by our likes and dislikes, nor by our theories about how faith works. We are called to follow Christ, and that means putting on humility, and choosing to act out of deliberate love for all, no matter who, without prejudice of any sort.

Following Christ doesn’t mean that we have to worship God in set ways. Church has changed enormously over the centuries! Some prefer a traditional service of hymns, prayers, and sermon; others do not find this format helpful. For this reason, we have been experimenting with alternative kinds of meeting, at different times and on different days. Our current experiment involves a meal prepared and eaten together on a Sunday afternoon, with the intention that we be able to relax together, celebrate Holy Communion, make friends, and hear what God has been up to in our collective lives. This is followed by more intentional prayer and reflection in the Evening Gathering for those who wish. Being together in this way helps people with particular interests to find others of like mind - we ask that you comewithyour mind, but leave yourprejudicesat home. It is our intention that these Afternoon Gatherings be open-minded and inclusive, for we all fall short of what we might be as God sees us, and yet we are all one in Christ - forgiven, redeemed, and acceptable. This is a glorious truth that brings freedom to all who trust our lives to Jesus, no matter who we are.

Being together allows us to explore understandings of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and faith in general. It’s hard to do this alone, because we all have blind spots, and need to learn from each other. And we all have stories of faith to tell, which will bring hope and faith to others! It is a two-way process, loving neighbour as self. And because the creator God loves us abundantly, we can do this respectfully, hearing each other without criticism or judgment. In the end, being together depends entirely on God anyway!

Parkdale Church of Christ 2012-18 —A community of faith, hope and compassion.