Sunday, November 04, 2007

Inherited Church vs. Inherited Faith

I'm on attachment (not as painful as it sounds...merely a long term placement) with the lovely and wonderful Maggi Dawn at Robinson College for the whole of this academic year, and its making me think a great deal. Not only because you can't not when you're around Maggi...but also because I'm simply being challenged by the completely different culture, both in terms of the church/chapel culture, and also the social culture that surrounds it being within a university college.

This morning in chapel communion, we celebrated that it was All Saints. It struck me that Saints are not something we really 'do' in the Methodist tradition, ironic as we seem to love our anniversaries! Maggi spoke of the history of our faith that we have inherited through such people as those recognised through canonisation, those whose Christian life and service made such an impact on humanity that they are worthy of remembrance. It certainly seems that we inherit a great history (though some of it, admittedly rather shameful when we consider the Crusades) of faith.

This in turn struck a chord of a recent conversation I had with a friend about what 'emerging church' was, part of her answer being related to 'inherited church', and a wish to break free from that. So the question that crept into and wriggled around in my head this morning was... can we, and if so, how do we separate inherited church and inherited faith?

Disposing of the inherited church parts of our religion, although not easy, seems to have its realistic possibility; however, how can we dispose of the tradition of faith, which surely goes to make up the Christian religion. Is the emerging church trying to remove all traces of the imposed 'cultic' elements of Christianity? Maybe, and most likely, I need to read more about the emerging church. But I wonder what the elements are that are considered to be vital; who decides? Does history mean nothing?

Defining 'emerging church' is, I believe by its own admission, somewhat of a paradox, and one which is as changeable as the author of it. But what of the saints; the moulders, sustainers, movers and shakers of our faith: To what extent should this inheritance be elemental in what we are as Christians?

R x

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