Above the door of Blackburn Cathedral there is a sign ‘House of God Gate of Heaven’. Perhaps more aptly this sign is also found over the door of the Holy House in the shrine at Walsingham. This sign tells us a great truth and sets a high standard for what the Church is. Jesus often talks about ‘The Kingdom of Heaven’ and we often think of this as a place far off in space. When Jesus talks of heaven he is speaking about a place and time when all things will be made new, a time in the future and a place we go when we die. But, what Jesus is also referring to is today and the world that we live in.
Christianity is not just about getting to heaven in the future, but bringing heaven to earth now. Well a little bit of heaven at least. Our lives and our community in church is called to be a little bit of heaven in the here and now. We are called to offer different values and a different vision for our world to what we see around us and if we are honest within us too. These are lofty goals and hard to get a handle on. So over the next few months we will set out in church to restate this goal in everyday words and actions in everyday life.
At our church council meeting the other day, we set out three priorities for 2015-16. Three ways in which we will attempt to bring a little bit of heaven to earth in Christ Church. These three priorities are, Spiritual, Community and Financial. If we take the community priority first:
On our noticeboard outside it says in big letters: All are Welcome. I’m sure if we are honest sometimes we would like to get a marker pen and write underneath; except for …….. We may not literally want to do that but all of us feel like that from time to time. Welcoming and including people is a difficult thing to do. But it is something that by and large we at Christ Church do very well. We are called to be an inclusive group of people and the fact that we have very different people within our church family shows this very well.
But our community priority goes far further than being nice on a Sunday morning. It is about being part of a family. God has a vision for humanity, that we are all part of one human family. Family is a fantastic thing and it is within the family that we see the best of humanity. But as we know that it is within each family that we see the worst too. In church we are called to truly treat each other as if they were our brother or sister. That is far more than just being nice.
Church is far more than times of formal worship. Church is about recognising that all people are our family and serving and caring for them as best we can. Over the next few months Ann Parkinson will write an article showing how we in small ways serve our community. This is something that all of us can be proud to be a part of. We are not just a club that sings songs at 10:00 on a Sunday morning. We are a community that welcomes all and cares for all. This is a work that goes on all week in obvious and quiet ways.
In our world often people are seen as more or less important. We often hear about ‘the elite’ in all aspects of our life. In our community and our vision for the world, there is no elite. There is no pecking order, in fact it is those who are seen as less important who are most valuable. After all in our family who is the most important person?
It is a wonderful thing that each week we welcome all sorts of people into church. Those in their 80s to newborns at tots. People from all sorts of backgrounds and lifestyles. Perhaps too at harvest time we see most clearly that we are part of wider family than just Christ Church. Working week by week with the other churches in the town at our Foodbank and debt centre.
In heaven there are no celebrities and in church there are none either. We are called to be a different type of community. This is something that is a challenge but also a joy. To build a piece of heaven in Drayton where all are welcome and all are valued. If we continue in this way we can honestly say that our church is the house of God the gate of heaven.
Fr Hywel Snook, Parish Priest.