Apparently the debate over women’s roles in the church is raging again in Sydney Anglican Land. I have a Facebook friend who’s fascinated by it; if it wasn’t for his posts I’d have had no idea. It’s a nice sign that things have changed for me. I used to feel like these people were my immediate family, and I had to do what I could to help my brothers and sisters see and understand the egalitarian perspective. Now, they’re still my family, but they’re more like distant cousins, and it feels almost strange to eavesdrop on my Great Uncle John (Dickson) and Great Uncle Matthias (Media) arguing about where on the complementarian spectrum they think the Bible places everyone. If there was less “BUT THIS IS WHAT THE PASSAGE CLEARLY SAYS” and more talk about how we go about interpreting the Bible, I might have felt hopeful and been tempted to stick around and listen more; alas, it seems no one’s noticed their arguments are over the wrong thing, and so this debate will continue for many years to come, most probably. Unfortunately for them.
It took us one week/around six weeks to find our new church. We went there on the first weekend we decided to start looking and I loved it, but it seemed imprudent (or something) to decide to choose a church without comparing it to all the others in the area. So we went to all the others in the area and grew increasingly despair-y over the chances of ever finding the perfect one, and then one Sunday I threw my hands up and said, “I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE.” I was tired of smiling at strangers and hoping both that they’d talk to me and that they wouldn’t talk to me, and feeling terrified that the minister would say something that would make me cry during the service, and trying to convince Moses that church was a good use of some of our limited weekend time with Daddy around. So I decided to give up. Then later that afternoon I remembered that we’d already found the right church ages ago, and wondered if maybe we should just go back there. So we did, and we stayed.
I love it I love it I love it. I love that they hand out instruments to “the young and the young at heart” and though the music is often drowned out by the sound of out-of-time percussion I’m moved by the lyrics and Mo’s exuberant tambourining. I love that we sing and pray to God as “Father and Mother, Creator and Poet.” I love that they’re a community who obviously loves those inside and out of the church, and those inside and out of the Church; a community who understands that
Too often social action in evangelical churches is barely concealed evangelism, or at best the sugar that sweetens the evangelistic pill. It is the decoy to attract sinners onto our patch so that we might ‘bag’ them and convert them. Such a policy lacks integrity and those ‘sinners’ who get close enough to smell it get put off by the stench of hypocrisy that surrounds it. Pastoral care in the community should not be seen as a useful supplement to the real task, that of saving souls, but as an essential response to the call of Christ to care for ‘the least of these’ his brethren, amongst whom are included all who religion would want to exclude. Paul Goodliff in Care in a Confused Climate: Pastoral Care and Postmodern Culture (Pages 132-133)
It’s the church I’ve been dreaming of. Instead of bouncing from foot to foot with gloves raised, ready to defend itself if struck, my heart has learned that it won’t be attacked at church now and simply rests. It seems crazy to me that for so long this on-guard, slightly-stressed feeling has been a normal part of my church life; feeling completely at peace while there is strange and new and wonderful. And, yes, I know it probably won’t last; no church is perfect, and as we get to know people better and see how things are run I’m sure there’ll be things that drive me bonkers. But I’ll continue to relish this time and give thanks for it while I can, especially since these may be the final days of our whole family going to church together.
I filled out a form the other day and felt slightly naughty moving past the “Anglican” option when looking for an answer to the ‘Which denomination are you part of?’ question. Being part of the Anglican church has formed a fairly big chunk of my identity for years now, and I’m still figuring out who I am now that I’m not a member of that branch of the family, now that I feel more like a distant cousin. So for now I’m just “Not an Anglican.” That’s my denomination at the moment.