Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Out of Body Experience

I'm having a weird time at the minute. There are lots and lots of struggles in the body of the church. Things are uncomfortable, the ‘least’ are around us and they're not as attractive or as grateful as we'd like. Too much time is given to the poor and the marginalised and not enough on the givers and upholders of the church body.

Outside the community though I chat to people about the things we are engaged in, you know, helping asylum seekers, working with the homeless, drug addicts etc and people think it's great. Like they lap it up. Then they say things like, 'your church sounds great, I never new Christians were into stuff like that.'

To be honest its freaking me out a bit.

I sat in a training day which was all about harm reduction. Basically how you get people to manage drug and alcohol problems without expecting them to stop completely all at once. Anyway, I was sat with people from various agencies and what became apparent right from the off was that I was in a whole different arena. How do you talk about ‘appropriate role boundaries’ when you don’t have a working relationship but a community relationship, when you truly do seek to be a friend? When I began to talk about looking after people who are themselves at risk along side the drug addict who may steal and lie etc and that in a church community we are wanting to encourage, love and protect the safety of both there was real appreciation of it. I found myself bizarrely giving a Christian account of love and justice to a group of non religious 3rd sector workers and they were loving it!

The following day I was sat in a nail bar having my monthly manicure (?) when I’m asked what I do. I tell them. I am then asked more and more questions and am told more and more childhood stories about faith experience until eventually I am having a theological discussion about what it means to belong to a community. I don’t have these conversations within my community!

If this church stuff of loving the poor and standing with those outside is so attractive, why are those inside the community leaving and complaining? Why do people I worship with talk about church not being safe or ‘what it should be’ while those outside seem to get excited? Why is this stuff not working the right way around?

For the moment then I continue in my strange and unsettling out of body experience...