This blog has now existed for a little short of a year. It began as a student project, part journal, part experiment with a means of communication. I’ve found it an interesting experience, not least because of the clues it’s given me about what I care about and what of what I care about resonates with other people.
I care about the URC. I’ve posted fairly often about my denomination and I seem to care about its fate. I don’t want it to divide and I don’t want it to resolve its differences. I don’t want it to become the “progressive” denomination some would like it to become and I don’t want it to tack towards a conservatism. Essentially I seem to want it to carry on as it has been. Divided, accommodating, linked to its past but open to change. Diverse.
At the same time I would like it to change. I think it needs to stop trying to be a complete small church, with the full range of departments and functions and figure out what it’s special gifts and callings are.
This caring about the denomination may well reflect being an ordinand student, a strange condition where you belong more to the denomination than to any church. I expect I’ll think a good deal less about the URC when I’m thinking more about the two churches I will be serving as minister. So what else do I care about?
I care about the relationship between ethics and theology. In particular I care about preventing human ethics from drowning out and excluding the primacy of worship in the life of the Church. It seems to me as if in the internal culture wars of Christianity God is pushed aside by competing ethical programmes. On the whole I prefer that of the liberals but I can’t be on their side because they, like their opponents but even more so, make ethics the core of Christian faith.
This is something I believe to be profoundly and disastrously wrong. So I care about arguing that God’s will for our salvation, God’s love of us, the promise of new life is what the gospel is mostly about.
I care, therefore, about getting our positioning in relation to the Bible and to the traditions of the Church right. Our knowledge of God’s will for us comes through the story of God’s dealings with us. The Bible is central to this but the subsequent history of the Church really matters too. But God is still interacting with us, the Bible and our history are the way we make sense of God’s continuing presence and communication. This is difficult to understand and to discuss and I care about this difficultly.
Writing this blog and experiencing people’s reactions to it have helped me see these things about myself and about the ways I succeed and fail in explaining myself to others. That’s good.
But I’m expecting and hoping that I’m going to have less time and energy for these big abstract questions soon. I will have the two church communities of Potters Bar and Brookmans Park URCs to care about, the people in them, the surrounding and connected people, the lives of the congregations as corporate entities. I’m looking forward to that, to the concrete realities of Christian discipleship as a communal undertaking.
I hope to carry on with this form of writing but I hope to see it change, to become the writing of a minister not a student, with different concerns and a different audience.
This is my last post before we move to Hertfordshire and my first post since I ceased to be a student. I plan to carry on using Love’s Work and I don’t intend to hide, archive or remove the last year’s posts but I do hope that what comes now will be different.
If anyone is reading this hold me in your prayers (or thoughts if you don’t pray) and also those we leave behind in Scotland and those among whom we are going.