Sunday, 30 May 2010

'carry on reforming'

Gosh, a long time between blogs, but life has been stupidly busy with a project my academic supervisor and I had been working on.  Spent the last week at the General Assembly and am still processing: but here are some thoughts on this Trinity Sunday...

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about unity.
A couple of weeks ago, I was chatting to folks at the local sheltered housing complex before communion - 
observing that unity was something more than merely uniformity.
I remember saying that unity didn't mean that we had to be the same,
or think the same,
or eat, or drink, or wear the same things:
that we’re not created to be clones
but that we're called to be the people
God has created us to be - 
in all our wonderfully different and diverse ways…
And that the way that we express our unity is found in who we follow and in whose image we are created:
the God who is one, and yet, who is three.

As part of my placement duties,
I spent the last week wandering about the General Assembly:
sitting in on debates - nice work if you can get it!! - and it was certainly packed with some very different and diverse people.
I spent the time eating and chatting with commissioners;
enjoying cups of tea and good blethers in the New College garden with old undergrad friends –excited to be attending as commissioners for the first time;
And also watching someone I know and respect being thanked and farewelled for her work on behalf of the General Assembly to take up duties in a very different direction.

Watching – I did a lot of that: watching and listening:
watching some of the high ceremonial – 
trumpeters, and folk in costumes from the Lord Lyon's office, or in judges wigs, perhaps symbolising the relationship between church and state;
watching the vast mass of commissioners interact with each other –
whether in debate, or over meals –
in a mostly friendly manner …
symbolising perhaps, the communitarian nature of the church…
but mixed in with that,
watching some folk jealously guarding their small empires:
from small clusters of men in dark suits having ‘quiet chats’ in corridors,
to a rather fierce, though kindly, voluntary door steward.
And we celebrated the 450th year of protestant reformation in Scotland – with a special service on Sunday – and with a display which ran all through the week in the foyer of New College.  Perhaps this symbolised the continuity and change of the church down through history. 
There were also some rather astonishing fashion sights to behold:
the one which particularly stuck, being the minister who got up to speak to the Assembly wearing a large woolly jumper complete with huge burning bush logo – it was certainly eye-popping!  Um, perhaps symbolising dodgy taste in fashion?  :)

It’s been a fascinating and diverse week, as the body of Christ, represented in the form of those gathered at the General Assembly, did it’s business.
The church coming together once again to assess and discuss its mission, its message, and the mechanics involved with that.

As I watched the debates, I learnt how not to make a point:
in a long discussion concerning ministry the mood of the GA was made known very vocally –
a commissioner who had already spoken at length several times rose from his seat once more, and asked the Assembly if he could just make a response to someone’s point:
a spontaneous and universal cry of ‘no’ rumbled and echoed through the Assembly Hall, which I confess made me giggle.  
The man, quite wisely, sat back down.

In the debate centring around the report from Minstries Council, Assembly decided that unrestricted calls for ministers were a luxury that we as a church could no longer afford, and began the process of exploring how reviewable tenure might become the norm.
In another debate Assembly also had some fairly strong opinions concerning the banking system and bonus culture in the face of the growing divide between the richest and poorest in society.

Overall, my sense, as I spent time at the General Assembly was that, as a church, our future must not be about creating little empires,
or doing our thing in our small corner –
we work best as church when we work together:
in self-giving relationship based on
mutuality, trust, respect and love…
Which has at its heart an understanding that all of us are made in the image of love –
in the image of God…
God who is one, yet three…
in perfect community...
in unity and diversity.
It's an ongoing challenge, but it is after all, the spirit of reform - 
the church is always reforming, semper Reformanda and all that... 
or, as Prof. Dawson paraphrased, when addressing and encouraging the folk gathered for the Sunday evening special service, 'carry on reforming!'

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