Long­ings in the church today

The Church of England - - FEATURE - WATCH

Michèle Kitto

‘I long for ev­ery­one to be able to use the gifts that God has given them, un­hin­dered by prej­u­dice, judge­ment or stereo­type.’

What do you long for? Peace, unity, ac­cep­tance, some­thing wild, fam­ily, faith not re­li­gion, united com­mu­ni­ties, hon­esty and or real re­la­tion­ships. These are just some of the things that a con­gre­ga­tion re­cently recorded as be­ing their long­ings for the Church when asked in a cre­ative con­text to record what they would ‘ditch’, ‘treasure/keep’ and ‘long for’ when talk­ing about Church.

In life it is so easy to be crit­i­cal of things. How­ever ac­tu­ally tak­ing time to re­flect on what would we ac­tu­ally treasure and long for, along­side per­haps those things that are not so im­por­tant is a good way of re­ally ex­plor­ing our neg­a­tive and pos­i­tive at­ti­tude. Im­por­tantly, it can help us to tease out what is re­ally im­por­tant to us per­son­ally and as a com­mu­nity.

I think that we should not be afraid to have these open dis­cus­sions as part of how we can make ex­pe­ri­ences of church more in­clu­sive and wel­com­ing. These long­ings can then form part of our in­ter­ces­sions.

Let’s un­pick this a lit­tle fur­ther. Here is one of the long­ings. ‘For or­di­nary (lay) peo­ple to be val­ued. Gifts and abil­i­ties en­abled within the church...’

This de­sire and long­ing struck a real chord with me. How are we as a church ex­plor­ing, en­cour­ag­ing and more im­por­tantly ac­tu­ally re­tain­ing the lay if they feel that they feel per­haps that are not val­ued? How can the church sup­port, nur­ture and en­cour­age the laity today in an in­clu­sive way that val­ues all, re­ject­ing gen­der stereo­typ­ing? How can we value ev­ery­one how­ever small their con­tri­bu­tion might be and com­mu­ni­cate that?

How can we cap­ture that de­sire for many to get in­volved but who feel that the door is closed as it ap­pears to be a club they don’t fit into. They might have small chil­dren, they might not have chil­dren, they might be shy, they might work full time, and they might per­ceive that you have to be re­tired and avail­able dur­ing the day.

Re­mem­ber­ing that, they might feel that they have noth­ing to of­fer in terms of gifts be­cause they per­ceive oth­ers as hav­ing bet­ter gifts than them­selves or hav­ing more time to give.

As a teacher I see my role in school as help­ing chil­dren find the hid­den treasure in terms of their gifts and pas­sions. Some take longer than oth­ers and some need help in be­liev­ing and valu­ing their gifts. Surely this is what the lead­ers in the church must do as well. We see this mod­elled by Je­sus when he used the gifts that those pre­sented to him, but he also ta­lent spotted in oth­ers too.

Church is of the peo­ple, li­turgy means of the peo­ple not of the in­sti­tu­tion. Early Chris­tians were ex­cited about mak­ing a dif­fer­ence and took risks, so should we.

What can we do?

We as a church must find safe spa­ces to lis­ten to our laity and find op­por­tu­ni­ties to share ex­pe­ri­ences. We as a church must learn from our mis­takes and see learn­ing as life­long. We as a church must be open to change, how­ever this does not mean ditch­ing ev­ery­thing but tak­ing what we treasure with us along with our long­ings. We must find ways to au­dit the skills of those in our con­gre­ga­tions sen­si­tively.We must look to re­ject gen­der stereo­typ­ing. We must value ev­ery­one what­ever they can of­fer, how­ever small (even a smile). We must be in­clu­sive, not exclusive.

Peo­ple nat­u­rally want to be­long and want to feel val­ued. Tak­ing time to thank peo­ple for the con­tri­bu­tion that they make how­ever small, costs noth­ing and is treasure it­self to the per­son that re­ceives it.

WATCH is hold­ing a Women’s Lay Day in Lon­don on 14 May where many of these is­sues will be ex­plored. Please go to the web­site for fur­ther in­for­ma­tion. An­other day will be held in Ex­eter in the au­tumn.

https://wom­e­nandthechurch. org/event/lon­don-watch-day­for-lay­women/

Michèle Kitto is a Com­mit­tee Mem­ber of WATCH (Women

and The Church)

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