Friday, April 24, 2015

ACC Diocesan Synod 2015: Impressions of smallness

That's how it is supposed to sound, I believe.

This was the anthem our little choir of three sang at the Synod Mass in Bolton this year. It was so good to go up north for once and see the folk who cannot normally come south for the Synod in London. It was also good to see, as always, Fr. Charlie and Fr. Howard, who made us soft southerners very welcome.

What has always impressed me about the ACC is that we do make a valiant attempt to turn even the smallest thing to a Holy purpose. A hall stage can become a sanctuary; a table can become an altar; a keyboard powered with batteries can become a church organ, and three singers can become a cathedral choir. Of course, there are such severe limitations caused by our modest means, however we try our best. What we do would not impress the Ritual Notes purist, but then we're not out to impress the Ritual Notes purist; we are seeking to do that which the Church has always done.

Most of us realize that we're just not that impressive. We're not recognized as a church, nor are we taken seriously. This is bound to happen: we reject innovations in the Established Church and so we are, in turn, rejected. We need to know how that feels if only to remember that what we must reject is heretical doctrine - we must seek never to reject people. Yet, we do our best despite the limitations. Many would think that, because we're in the U.K. we're mega-rich and capable of spending big bucks on all kinds of projects. I can state quite categorically, as the ex-Treasurer of the Diocese, we are poorer than the church mice: church mice at least have a church building to scurry around in.

All of us, in the Diocese, perhaps dream of bigger things. We'd like a classical stone building with all the fittings and priests and servers and choirs capable of singing Alessandro Striggio, but these are unavailable to us and will be for the foreseeable future. In fact, worrying about them is a distraction from our true purpose. And what is that purpose?

As a blogger, I recognize the limitations of my blog. It has a small readership, and a rather small range of posting. I look around and I see other blogs devoted to "setting the record straight" or "exposing the truth" or "replying to those in error". Lots of hot air is being wasted on old arguments, and old arguments are not going to go away, just like old heresies: Montanism is the heresy a la mode, but Arianism, Pelagianism, and even Nestorianism are still very much alive and kicking, even within larger Churches. However, these are distractions from the purpose. The Devil wants us to keep arguing so that we don't notice what is really happening.

While we focus on the latest outrage from the CofE, we miss the latest outrage from ISIS. One, of course, could argue that some churches, by promulgating heresy, are spiritually killing people in this country, whereas ISIS are physically killing people in the Middle East, and I take that point. One has the potential for eternal damnation, the other has the potential to raise one up to the level of the Martyr and so we should focus on the spiritual.

And yet, we do miss the point. Our argument with heresy is, by and large, done thanks to the work of Christians of more than 1000 years ago. We really don't have to argue it any more: we have nailed our colours to the mast. All we have to do is live the orthodox faith and allow God's true light to shine through us. If we concentrate ourselves on seeking God in our lives and building the Church, then we really don't have to worry too much about contributing to 1001 blog arguments. If anything, the constant spiritual defending is off-putting for new Christians. The Gospel, however, commits us to the present suffering of our brethren. There may be spiritual works of mercy, but there are also corporate works of mercy. Online bloggers can tend towards "instructing the ignorant" and "admonishing the sinner" to the exclusion of everything else. I'm very much with Fr. Hart and Harpo Marx on this matter.

This is why I think that the more pressing problem is not the heresy within big churches, but the physical oppression coming from ISIS and its ilk. Hatred is the worst heresy of them all. Those in ISIS are presently spiritually dead and will remain so until they repent of that hatred. While we weep for our Christian Martyrs, we remember the promises of Christ and the hope He gives us. Yet, our tears are more relevant for the ISIS members who, nonetheless precious creatures of God, are destroying their precious selves.

 The spread of hatred being spewed by these Islamic Fundamentalists is sickening and oppressive, and the most important corporate act of mercy here is to ransom the captive with the concomitant act of comforting the afflicted. These works can be done by everyone in small ways and big ways and we need to see how we in our tiny little ways can allow love to spread and conquer hatred.

Our purpose in the Anglican Catholic Church should not be to browbeat those with whom we disagree or waste time trying to defend what we have already defended: we should allow our faith to speak for itself. Our altar cloths may be a bit frayed, our candles a bit wonky and the lace uneven, but we want one thing: that, in the smallness of our being, the powerful love of God shine more radiantly into a world that is dark and doomed. The host is tiny, and yet God in Christ is most powerfully present in that smallness whether we're in a cathedral or a shoebox chapel.

Of course, we want to grow, and that's not easy in a world that takes exception to some of our rigid stances. We can just carry on and be friendly and open and honest and true to ourselves, working both spiritual and corporate works of mercy for our neighbours however far away they may be. It may even be possible that a tiny Church defeats the combined forces of ISIS. Why not? By one man came Death, by one man came the defeat of Death. With man things are impossible, with God all things are possible.

The message of the ACC really is "In Christ, keep calm, and carry on!" That's what we should be living up to!

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