THE MAGAZINE TEAM
Our A4 magazine goes free into 1100 homes around the parish.
Revd Barbara Steadman-Allen, General Editor
Maggie Myatt, proof reader extraordinaire
Sara Pearson and Kevin Abel, professional Design and Layout
Kathy Wheeler, chases the adverts
from the Vicarage
It seems to me,
having had many conversations
with people who
don’t ‘go to church’, that it’s
the church as a
state institution which has little
attractiveness. What do you reckon?
If you think about it, we don’t like most of our state
institutions. We distrust them at best. And the church gets pushed into that
Yet meet me and I hope that you feel valued, heard and
encouraged. We might even have shared a laugh. But I am the official front
window for the institutional thing! Meet any of the regular congregation over
the garden fence or at the bus stop or on a dog walk, and if you’re not busy
disentangling yapping hounds, you might get a half decent conversation or offer
of help. Many of them take the lead in our village activities and groups.
They’re part of the institutional thing too.
It’s as if there’s a kind of double-think about the
church people we know and the church institution we think we know or might
remember from the dim distant. They just don’t seem to be the same thing at
all. So what’s going on?
I don’t know what your past experience of ‘church’ is.
Maybe you would like to drop me an email and tell me why it put you off the
church thing. If it hadn’t, you’d be up the hill in the biggest building on the
Holmwood skyline, wouldn’t you? Or queuing up outside the Beare Green Village
Hall like on a Saturday jumble sale morning. Maybe you never had the joy of
experiencing church. Look, I won’t answer your mail unless you want me to, but
I’d be jolly interested to know how that most winsome of characters, a bloke
who won the trust of hard headed business men and fishermen and asked questions
of the establishment, has been so cruelly misrepresented. What HAS the ‘church’
done to the public face of Jesus that no one seems to want to know him anymore?
Was it always like this?
Maybe traditional church culture, beloved by those of
us who know it but a foreign language to those who don't, might bepart of an
answer. But you have to be aware that church culture is hugely caricatured by
the media. Do Dad’s Army and Midsomer Murders really inform your
view? Oh help. Why would I waste my time and life upfronting something so laughable?
What goes on behind our heavy wooden door really isn’t like that. We enjoy a
richly varied and (hopefully) accessible way of being together and being with
Jesus, which is open to everyone.
Stay with me while I think aloud. I see the ‘church’
much more as an alternative society, perhaps rather subversive and definitely
different. It doesn’t dance attendance on current fashions, trends and norms.
So does that make belonging to it only for the brave-hearted? That’s certainly
true in some countries around the world. But I do believe it’s the alternative many
are secretly looking for, a clean, truthful and straightforward society, one
characterised by, let’s say, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Yes, that does sound rather like
Utopia doesn’t it? Is it true that kind of alternative society exists in St MM
Church or Café Church in Beare Green?
Well, in the words of one of my heroes (next in line
to J.S. Bach), the Paul of Bible fame, ‘We
have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay
jars containing this great treasure.’ No, it has to be said, we’re not yet perfect.
And there will always be ladder-climbing individuals in the church motivated by
power and competition – church history is peppered disastrously with them – but
such an attitude is wholly inappropriate and certainly not Jesus'.
Potentially, the answer is yes. When Jesus comes back
to be the Prime Minister of this worldwide alternative society, it’s absolutely,
yes. Get a grip. Ditch the prejudice, the fear of what others might think, the
comfort blanket of half memory and discover the reality of a society within
society. Better still, belong to it. Public gathering: 10am Sundays.
Church of England Diocese of Guildford, which covers most of Surrey and
north-east Hampshire and one church in West Sussex, was formed out of
Winchester Diocese in 1927. It has a population of just over one million and
over 28,000 regular worshippers.