Sitting through 48 hours of reports, debates & deliverances (written motions, not the more exciting ‘liberation of soul & spirit’) had me yawning widely. This was due to my compadres (Rev’s) Fraser Aitken & David Watson snoring for Scotland in our Royal Mile digs, forcing me to seek sanctuary & slumber in lounge, lobby & next door to St Giles, and in large part down to the tedium of ploughing through boring business.
Nevertheless, ‘redemption’ is the name of our game, and the General Assembly (Gee Ay) had its high moments. For me these were: the humble ‘call to pray for our church & nation’, recognition that we desperately need God to move and work in our land; ‘words of life’ our moderator shared
in sermon & prayer; a growing readiness to take risks, adventure and become more intentional about ‘making disciples’; my press-pass permit allowed me to capture some Gee Ay humour & humanity; and informal interchanges with friends helped lighten the Gee Ay Mother-load.
Sitting through the GT’s report (‘General Trustees’ not imbibers of gin) provoked me most. Don’t get me wrong, Fullarton ConneXions is indebted to the GT’s for generous grants for our new buildings. The GT’s do a vital job, helping us to steward, add to and develop buildings as hubs for worship & witness. But by using ‘church’ to describe ‘buildings’ we abuse the original meaning of ‘church’ (ekklesia: ‘gathering of people’, in our case ‘Christian people’). By calling our buildings ‘churches’ we feed the ‘cult of church’, the worship of ‘oor kirk’ (building). Buildings can serve great purpose, but they can drain and distract from the more important task of building up God’s Family, The Body of Christ at work in The World.
So widespread is ‘church abuse’, perhaps we should just ditch it from our vocabulary, or at least ensure that, when we talk about the living, loving, light-bearing people of God we use another noun. Sadly our use of ‘Church’ is confusing, dangerous, and promotes the secular lie that God’s presence is more real and relevant in church buildings than in a work place, mall, street, football pitch, forest, valley, mountain, etc. Remember, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” (Psalm 24:1). God is everywhere, Christ’s Kingdom ever near us all (Matthew 3:2). The ‘Church’ (Salt, Light, Family, Body & Bride of Christ, etc) is not just a gathering, but also wherever God’s People live, move & have their being.
Rebranding as ‘Fullarton ConneXions’, has helped Fullarton Parish Church ditch the misunderstandings and off putting associations of ‘church’. Many people of faith and no faith are being drawn, with fresh force, to a place, purpose & people, wooed to a caring cause, community & Christ.
Here’s the challenge for the GeeAy, GT’s, Presbyteries, and all concerned for God’s Loving Kingdom to come with fresh force today: Find more life-giving and inspiring words to describe who we are and what we’re about. Banish the heresy of church gatherings or buildings as the ‘only place’ where God works or where Christians are at their most Christian. Let Jesus live in & through our everyday lives.