This coming Sunday we celebrate Pentecost. On this day long ago, the Holy Spirit came down from heaven ‘like fire’ and touched a motley group of Jesus followers, simultaneously uniting them and empowering them to communicate with all peoples. As such, Pentecost has traditionally been celebrated as the formation and birthday of the church. But what the church looks like, that is, how people gather as communities of faith, must find new shape in every time and place.
Here and now in south west Victoria, many of us have thought long and hard about this. From our carpark conversation to emails and text messages to private conversations with me and other church leaders, it’s clear we have lots of ideas! But where we perhaps fall down is putting these ideas into action. Of course, we can’t do everything, and we can’t do everything at once. But is it possible that some of us have a sense of what we should be doing, but are hoping that others will make it happen? If this is you, don’t wait! One part time pastor can’t make a whole church: but y’all working together can. Be the church you want to belong it: do the things you think we should do: and let the Holy Spirit guide us into something far bigger and wilder than any one of us could imagine alone. So …
If you want to be a church that eats together, don’t make it complicated. Invite people to a simple meal in your home; put out an invitation to the church for a restaurant dinner; or suggest fish n chips at Lake Pertobe some sunny Saturday afternoon.
If you want to be a church that meets in private homes, don’t wait for someone else to open up theirs. Instead, contact me and arrange a date, and we can hold a service at your place. For a small church, current COVID restrictions make gathering and sharing hospitality easier in private homes than in church spaces: so let’s take advantage of this!
If you want to be a church that prays together, don’t assume someone else will pray. Invite others to pray with you; turn up to healing prayers; come to the Sunday service and be ready to speak the prayers in your heart. Email the list with your own prayer needs, so we know how best to pray; and pray each day for someone in the congregation, holding them up to God.
If you want to be a church that works together, is it time for a working bee in your garden, perhaps, or a tree planting day? What needs to be done, and how can we do it? Think about it, find a date, then invite the congregation to roll up their sleeves and join in.
If you want to be a church that welcomes the stranger, look around. Who is new to the congregation? Who is new to town? Invite them to join you for a coffee or a meal, and make time to get to know them and to link them in with others.
If you want to be a church that wrestles with the Scriptures, turn up to each service with your thinking cap on, ready to ask questions of the text and the reflection and to share your own wonderings and insights. Invite others to join you in daily Bible reading, or form a regular Bible study group for a while.
If you want to be a church where people share faith stories and testimonies, notice what is on your own heart. Then contact me. We’ll find a suitable Sunday (spoken reflection) or Wednesday (written email) where your words can be shared. And if you want to do this but need assistance, I can provide you with catalysts and sentence starters to help get you going.
If you want to be a church engaged in justice work, what issue is burning within you? What’s going on locally, nationally or globally that you want to pitch in with? Are there others already working in the area? Put out an email and ask. Set up a small group with clear aims and targets, and go for your lives!
If you want to be a church which speaks to many people, share what we do. Invite friend and stranger to join us; go social with reflections, testimonies and prayers from the website. Lend your platform and voice to our shared voice. The spirit of Pentecost empowered disciples to communicate with all peoples; so if it’s good news, let’s communicate widely.
If you want to be a church which runs a circus workshop (which amazingly we are equipped to do), or makes soup (ditto), or partners with Anglicare to serve the homeless (ditto also) … well, you get the idea. What expressions of church inspire you? What do you long for in a church? What is Sanctuary called to now? And how will you catalyse this? This Pentecost, my prayer is that the Holy Spirit will not only unite and inspire us, but lead us into right action, together.
Emailed to Sanctuary 19 May 2021 © Sanctuary, 2021. Photo by Adam Thomas on Unsplash.
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