December 2018

Rector’s letter

In the news this week, Rev Gretta Vosper, of the United Church of Canada, has been allowed to keep her post in that denomination even though she is an atheist. That’s pretty weird, a minister in the church who doesn’t believe in God. She and the denomination came to an agreement, obviously through a legal process, but even so, the leader of that denomination is “delighted with the outcome”. It doesn’t say if he’s delighted because he has saved some money, or if he is delighted that he has an atheist running a church, likely the latter.

This is a situation we need to ponder on as we do church. It’s a situation I need to ponder in my own ministry. I find it all too easy to allow the processes of church to creep in and displace my passion for God and my reliance on Him to fulfil my calling. For all the beauty and resources of the Church of England we can get into a ‘paint by numbers’ mentality where all the outward processes are working well, but behind that isn’t very much relationship and reliance on God. I call it functional atheism, where we proclaim Jesus with our words, but to all intents and purposes the way we do life and church doesn’t reference God very much at all.

What is the antidote to functional atheism?

A personal relationship with Jesus which is growing and developing. It’s the simple stuff which is so important – regular times of prayer and reading the Bible regularly are the bedrock of growing in relationship with God. I can hear the excuses, put them aside and imagine the joy and delight which will grow in your heart as you grow in intimacy and love with Jesus

Including God in the everyday things of life. Saying grace at meal times, praying as you drive or walk, praying for people you have interacted with, thanking God for what He is doing. The scripted prayer of liturgy isn’t meant to be the only way we pray, along with the beauty of liturgy pray from a heart full of expectation of what God can do through your prayers, as simple as they may be.

Not only attending worship services but cultivating an attitude of awe and wonder in church, and an attitude of worship as you go about your life. A lovely definition of worship is that its hosting the presence of God. How much our view of ourselves and God changes when we see ourselves as hosts of God’s presence.

Lastly, in what could become a long list, it also about how we see ourselves in relation to God. All too many of us see ourselves as unworthy and undeserving of God. Maybe we feel that we aren’t of very much interest to God. If that is our mindset, we will find it very hard to move to a place where God is an integral part of our lives.

Rev Stephen Harrison