The Church of England has been in the media more than usual over the past few days, as the future of the Anglican Communion seems to hang in the balance, and in the midst of the various opinion pieces and prophecies of doom, this article called Twenty things the Church of England has done for us caught my eye.
I have spent all but the first two months of my twenty seven years as the member of one church or another, so it got me thinking about all the church in its widest sense has done for me.
It has given me an introduction to God The truth is that the church isn’t the only or necessarily the best place to be introduced to God, and many people find themselves stumbling into him away from or in spite of anything the church tries to do. For me though, the church was the place where I first heard about God and where I first encountered him. I hope he would have made my acquaintance at some point along the line if my parents hadn’t decided to take me along to the local church, but then for better or worse my story would have looked very different.
It has given me an extended family There’s something very special about the community of the church and the relationships that develop there, and I wouldn’t want to be without it. The love and encouragement that were exemplified in the cakes and prayers Mike and I received from Skipton Baptist Church on our wedding day were overwhelming, and it was really wonderful for us to be at the recent dedication of Revive’s youngest member and know that this is the community our baby will be born into.
It has given me space to express my passion and creativity I played in our church band for six years from the age of ten, and since then I’ve had the great privilege of running prayer events and teaching in a variety of contexts, and it is a great joy to be able to use the things I love in worship and service.
It has been a place of sanctuary I have probably spent more time crying in churches than anywhere else, and given that it’s rare for me to get through a play without weeping, that is saying something. Church can often feel like quite a raw place, but I think that is also because it is a safe place, where you can have a meltdown and find support not judgement. I know that isn’t everyone’s experience, but that is how I have been fortunate enough to find it, and that is how it should be.
It has been a place of challenge I briefly entertained ideas of being a missionary when I was about nine years old, but I had no real intention of becoming a minister until God started nudging me with increasingly sharp elbows. As I confessed at my welcoming service, where I am now is so far beyond what was my comfort zone that at this point it’s pretty much disappeared over the horizon. If it hadn’t been for the church providing people to speak God’s word to me and hold me accountable to that, I’d probably still be in that comfort zone. I’m glad I’m not.
It has confused me I spent sixteen years in the Anglican church and I still don’t know what an Archdeacon does, or what the difference is between Reverend and Very Reverend and So Incredibly Reverend You Wouldn’t Believe It. Answers on a postcard gratefully received.
It has frustrated me I will resist the temptation to climb up on my soapbox and air my grievances, but I have done my fair share of griping about the church, whether that has been because of internal politics or certain official positions, and I have been really badly hurt by it at times. And yet I know that is only because I love it so dearly, and it is difficult when it doesn’t live up to all it can be.
It has shaped me The church has been such a huge part of my life that I couldn’t possibly identify all the ways it has impacted on me, but I know that I am the person I am because of my experience of and interaction with the church, and that I will continue to be formed by being a part of a community that loves and walk and prays together. I couldn’t be more pleased.
I’d love to know what church has done for you, especially as many of you reading this will have far more experience than me of church-that-doesn’t-look-like-you-expect-church-to-look, so please do leave a comment.