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Being a Bridge Between the Church and the World

Building Bridges Between the Church and the World

“Our business is building bridges with our questions of one another and the world.” This is a quote from Rowan Williams, the previous Archbishop of Canterbury. You heard it in a recent sermon and it has stuck with me since. I wonder if it isn’t a question to take into the long, green Pentecost season as a church. As I said in that same sermon, I remember the question of my spiritual director at some point more than 20 years ago in my ordination process: “how will ordination change the relationship you have with the women you work alongside?” And my response, God-given I believe, “I will be a bridge.” As a deacon, I was very aware of being the bridge between the church and the world, the local church that knows you and the living community in which it finds itself. The bridge that brings the world to the church and the church to the world. And once a deacon, always a deacon, whatever else may come.

It is “our business” to bridge the concerns of those inside and outside the walls of the church. We can do that in many ways, though primarily in listening to voiced needs and concerns, and joining in with how we understand God is present and calling us to respond. Mostly, we can bridge in prayer. Prayer that sometimes means silence, takes time, grows, develops through listening and knowledge of God’s character always at work and not only in ourselves. I know we sometimes take our business to mean “fix it”, or “Sunday attendance”, or amplifying our voice in the world. I know the value of practical help, statistics, speaking up for the voiceless, but think about it: we don’t need to be the church to do those things or even to see change. The church is to follow Jesus: be his hands and feet; learn and be encouraged by others following him (those in the pews with us, the saints and theological thinkers we read, as well as those who left their learning and letters in the Bible; and we hear from neighbors when we go and listen. None of us has perfected this ‘following Jesus’ life: none of us is an island, entire in ourselves (to coin John Donne!). Connection is through our questions of one another and the world. And our prayers.

Our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, has recently been talking about his travel experiences around the Episcopal Church (which, remember, includes 108 dioceses and three mission areas in 22 nations or territories). He is finding Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday Resurrection happening all at this same time all over, and sees churches creatively re-inventing themselves once they recognize their age-old purpose of bridging the world and the church, church and the world.

So maybe my question for prayer and discussion in this season of Pentecost might be formed by the words of PB Michael Curry: where do we see Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday Resurrection happening amongst us, in & at St Raphael, in the communities we find ourselves living, moving and being as followers of Jesus? Let me know your thoughts!

Holding you all in my love and prayers.

Rev. Helen

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