Did You Hear the One About…? 40 Days with Cartoon Church
Day 19 – Wednesday after 3rd Sunday of Lent
From the Scriptures:
My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ. 3 For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. 4 All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbour’s work, will become a cause for pride. 5 For all must carry their own loads.
My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should:
- Sulk, and when asked what is wrong say ‘nothing’. Flouncing out gets added kudos.
- Write a formal letter of complaint, quoting Scripture Passages (from ‘your’ Authorised Version of the Scripture) to the Vicar/Churchwarden/Archdeacon/Bishop/Archbishop/Pope expressing your disgust.
- Say nothing until the Annual Meeting of Parishioners and then let everyone know that the reason why there are less people in church is because of the nefarious activities of the Scout, Brownies, History, Drama, Ladies, Yoga, Youth, Children, Toddlers Group.
- Express your concern for the prosperity of the Gospel whilst such behaviour is allowed to carry on unchecked and encouraged on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter in CAPITAL LETTERS!!!!!
- Write a Lenten blog about how the Church Hall is misused unless your group controls everything.
Sound familiar to anyone?
I often wonder why it is easier for me to behave like ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ rather than ‘Delighted of Duxford’? I am perfectly happy to forgive almost all of the above the offences, I do draw a line, however, at the raiding of the secret PCC biscuit cupboard: chocolate Hobnobs are God’s gift to long Church meetings.
It pains me to hear words like, ‘pilfering’, ‘raiding’ and even (shock horror!) ‘using’ when it comes to complaints about other parts of the Body of Christ making use of kit and caboodle that belongs to every part of the Body of Christ.
Yes, I know that is frustrating when those who use chairs and tables, tea cups and toddler toys, do not put things back where they belong (of course ‘my’ group would never do this) but at least they are being used. Too many churches are places where groups ‘used to’ meet. We ‘used to’ have a Sunday School, Mother’s Union, Drama Group, Coffee Morning. The list of places where the church has withdrawn from society are legion and most often, not being welcoming is high on the list of reasons why groups that once came to churches now find space to flourish elsewhere.
I understand that broken items need repairing, ‘pilfered’ biscuits need to replacing (preferably with chocolate ones!), and how unsettling it is for faithful worshippers to find things out of place come Sunday morning. However all these ‘pinpricks’, and to be honest that is what they are, to the smooth running of our life are worth it if the Body of Christ grows. I would much rather that our buildings are filled the chatter of the coffee morning and the odd toddler tantrum instead of echo only the sound of silence.
Many reading these words know that I am a franciscan by calling, (perhaps that is why I have not the tidiest of desks!) and rejoice in the ‘here and now’ and the ‘immediacy’ of the good news of Our Beloved. Zeffirelli’s famous movie ‘Brother Sun, Sister Moon,’ admittedly filmed through a rose-tinted camera lens, has a scene which contrasts the sombre ‘empty’ worship in the parish church of Assisi and the joyful mess in the ruins of the church of San Damiano. The different, yet historically contemporary, figures of Christ on the Cross-of each church speak volumes. The one in Assisi, sombre, judging and, probably, counting chairs, the other in San Damiano joyfully smiling down on the new-born franciscans saying to them, ‘Rebuild my church’.
The task has not changed. All the angst and juggling of diaries, all the concerns over pilfering, raiding, and misuse, come down to God’s desire to rebuild the Church. It is, and always will be ‘Messy Church’ not ‘Mary Poppins Church’ where things are ‘practically perfect in every way’. Instead of tut-tutting that things are out of place we should rejoice that God’s people have gathered here today and the reign of the One Who Love’s us Best has been made manifest in crumb filled carpets, empty biscuit tins, and poorly stacked chairs.
O God, may your church discover,
then identify, its life with groups of people
who suffer justice and remain unheard.
May your church be the voice of the voiceless,
Let your church find them,
and struggle with them,
and so find the way of your cross,
and the way of true responsibility.
Emilio Castro, Uruguay
- The Church Growth Research Programme of the Church of England produced Anecdote to Evidence – report that identified eight things that help churches grow. Have a look at this chart and see if your church can learn anything from it.
- If you belong to a church group, which tends to empty biscuit tins and not tidy up after meetings, try harder to be tidy.
- If you are a compulsive ‘tidier-upper’ after others try to be thankful that others have been doing God’s work in your church hall.
Read the Report ‘From Anecdote to Evidence’ here:
Find help in putting this research into practice by using the tools in ‘From Evidence to Action’ here:
All Cartoons are copyright © Dave Walker. Please visit http://www.cartoonchurch.com if you would like to laugh even more J
Prayers are from the collection ‘Praying with the World Church’ compiled by USPG.
Please support their work by visiting http://www.uspg.org.uk
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
These Reflections, ‘Did You Hear the One About…?’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2017