This month the Reverend Jenny Dowling reflects on the Church
It’s a cliché to say that the Church generally gets a bad press. And, of course, the Church past and present has much to be ashamed of – scandals, hypocrisy, cruelty and abuse included. But the Church has always been a community of
sinners in need of forgiveness and transformation, where everyone is welcome. Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’ (Luke 5: 31-32).
The story-teller Bob Hartman reminds us that the church is, and always has been, a work in progress, and we mess it up sometimes but it is also the place for grace. Bob has written a piece called ‘Let’s hear it for the Church!’ in which
he wanted to affirm so much that is good about the Church, and to thank God. He mentions those parts of the world where the Church is under attack, but where Christians refuse to compromise principles of right and wrong, and
how they suffer terribly as a result. He reminds us of the countless hurting people who have found acceptance and healing in the church, the poor who have been fed, the damaged saved.
Recently Rev. Dr Mike Long spoke about “Faith in the Shadow of Grenfell”. Mike is the minister of Notting Hill Methodist Church which opened its doors to survivors of the tragic fire two years ago. There were already good local
relationships between Christian church leaders and those of other faiths, and together, they had a key role in supporting the community in the aftermath. (As a result of the work Mike did, he was appointed chair of Shelter’s social housing commission.) Sometime after Grenfell, the local police chief was retiring, and she spoke to Mike and said, “You were the quiet people who enabled others to be angry and to be sad.”
At the funeral last month of the young journalist Lyra McKee, Fr. Martin Magill received a standing ovation when he spoke out and shamed political leaders into making renewed attempts at progress for peace in Northern Ireland.
Bob Hartman also writes of some of the people who have had a profound and positive impact on him, and he thanks God for them. If I were to write my own list, it would be long, but it would include the members of the churches
of Caversham, where there is a genuine desire to serve our community, and to work together as members of one Church and I thank God for them.
Bob finishes his piece like this:
So, let’s hear it for the Body!
All fingers and thumbs sometimes, but the Body of Christ nonetheless.
And let’s hear it for the Bride!
Beautiful and broken and unbowed.
And let’s hear it
Let’s hear it
Let’s hear it for the Church!1
1 “Telling the Bible” by Bob Hartman, publ. Monarch Books 2006
Rev’d Jenny Dowding, Caversham Methodist Team Ministry