Closing a church:3

Every Christian worship service I have been to has had confession and repentence as part of it. If you are outside the Christian tradition or hostile to it, that may sound like self flagelation. Done improperly it can be. As I age, I increasingly find it to be incredibly powerful: here is one space during the week when I am not the centre of everything, I don’t have to pretend and I can admit that I often mess it up. I can take the Christian truth that yes, I am made in the image of God, but also I am incredibly flawed. And cross the ‘I’ out- in this act, I grasp, albeit tentatively ‘ubuntu’ (It’s African- look it up), that I is ‘we’.

At the end of a worshipping community there has to be space to say ‘sorry’- sometimes we messed up:

– we ran away with our own agendas.

– we forgot that we are the only community that is supposed to exist for those that are not yet part of it.

-we fell out and never quite got back together again.

-we used each other.

etc etc…..

& sometimes those ‘messings up’ were never acknowledged and we lived like Pink Floyd : ‘Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way’.

…and then we say our sorry’s and recieve absolution, to recognise that there is no condemnation, but rather Grace and Forgiveness.


Each Wednesday, for the next few weeks I hope to post some thoughts about closing a church. This has been occasioned by the church that I used to be a minister of (St John’s Colwyn Bay- now St John’s Uniting Church) from 1999-2004 voting to close in May 2013.

…in which I get all theological…


Ok, I know that the most neglected organ that we Christians have is the brain, I know we need to grapple with issues. It is just that…..

…..well sometimes the way I have seen debates conducted (the bile, name calling etc) and the way they can lead to over-cerebrality (if that is not a word then it should be) makes me think sometimes ‘And this is following God?’.

I don’t pretend to understand the debate on the atonement and the many spats in the last few years about it, but this post really got be thinking (and applauding….does that mean I am a heretic?) :-

The very fact that this controversy is so often approached as a debate about ‘theories’ of atonement has the effect of confining us to a rationalizing, modernist mentality that will inevitably miss the point. There is no theory of atonement – there are no theories of atonement – in the New Testament. What we have is a story about how the people of God found a means of escape from the historical impasse into which they were being driven by their persistent state of revolt against YHWH..

..What we cannot do is discard the narrative-historical setting as though it were merely the husk around some essential theory of atonement. Indeed the opposite is true: the narrative is at the heart of the matter, the theology is merely interpretation.

Evangelicalism will not settle the debate over the atonement, in my view, until it grasps the fact that not only is it the product of the narrative, it remains subject to the narrative. As long as it insists in dealing with abstractions, it remains a sub-biblical movement.