I dream of a Church which is represented in the pulpit, in the kitchens, on church councils and elders’ boards, in the pews, in mission, by women alongside men, people of colour alongside white, the working classes alongside the middle, the so called outsiders alongside the insiders – all gloriously subverting what the world would have us believe as the way things will always be to reveal the rich and patchwork beauty of the Kingdom of God.
I dream of a Church where we value voices and stories that are different to our own. That we would embrace discomfort-at-difference – turning away from our kneejerk ‘how can they make this more comfortable for me?’ instead running with determination towards ‘what can I learn about Jesus, about the heart of our God through this person, through this different way of speaking / praying / worshipping / living?’
I dream of a Church where we are sometimes prepared to say no so we can encourage those feeling disqualified to say yes, laying down our lives for one another as Christ has done once and for all – for all (because what’s the use of being a radical church if it doesn’t start with our radical choices anyway?)
Of a Church where we are prepared to experience what it’s like on the margins sometimes, for is that not where Christ dwells? With the poor, the voiceless, the less-than, the so-called disqualified, the misfits?
Of a Church where we are willing to listen to the feminists, the complementarians, the outspoken, the timid, the fiery passionate, the contemplative, those who weep and those who laugh as Sarah laughed as she surveyed the workings of the miraculous Spirit of God – knowing deep in our bones that we are all glorious mish-mash of these things, anyway. That we are a people who know that the key to Life is holding all the tensions in our souls, the light and the dark, and moving forward anyway.
I dream of a Church it would be normal to hear analogies in the pulpit about a Creation groaning and longing for redemption as a woman groans in childbirth alongside metaphors of warfare and battle. I dream of learning from those women who know what it is to wait, to swell, to groan, to birth new life – as we all birth the Spirit of God.
I dream of a Church where our eyes are wide open and we love one another – all of one another.
A new commandment I give unto you. That you love one another, as I have loved you. By this may all people know that you are my disciples. (John 13:34)
I hope because I believe the Church is the bride of Christ. That we are deeply, perfectly loved. That we are being daily rescued and our wounds kissed better by a mothering, fathering God, over and over and over.
I hope because I believe that God made us in His/Her image – male and female we are created. That we are all stamped with the very image of our mothering, fathering God who is neither male nor female. Who is not not male or female. Who is beyond our wildest imaginings and who we cannot contain. Who is daily letting us in on a prophetic kind of imagination which will enable us to re-imagine the way we love and serve and lead one another in the Church.
I hope because I see we women rising alongside brothers to prophetically usher in the Kingdom of God, causing darkness to flee. I see those causing holy disruptions at polite church meetings to remind us to watch our alienating jargon. I see men prompting women to lead, to speak, to play their part. And I see women stop waiting for permission and rolling up their sleeves anyway – organically gravitating together to pray, to wash one anothers’ feet, to tell our stories, to add our unique voices to the current narrative.
Because our voices – all our voices – they matter. We each have something to reveal to one another about the heart of our God. And oh my Lord, it is uncomfortable. There is so much hurt that sometimes we don’t even know how to look one another in the eye – it seems easier somehow to localise the ‘camps’, to be satellites who operate separately and come together for corporate worship.
I hope because I know that we have it in us to take intentional steps towards change and not use our words as shields to cover our convenient inaction: we are the beloved, the children, the bride of a God who is out there beyond all our known ways of doing things in the wilderness showing us how to set the patchwork table already – and oh what a feast it will be – but who comes back for us over and over, never failing to call us towards redemption. Always, always redemption.
Abba, Mama God – teach us how to find you in discomfort and difference. To lay down our defences and allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to learn from one another as opposed to always expecting that we should feel comfortable and be heard. Would you empower women and men to work together for equality and for justice. Teach us to be people who listen.
And oh, Lord, take away the sense of shame of the ones who feel their spirits stirring voraciously and inconveniently for these things. May you stir up holy passion. Pour out your healing spirit upon hurting hearts and damaged relationships. Empower those who feel disqualified and work in our hearts that we may all play our intentional part in inviting each other to sit at your freedom table. Teach us how to move towards each other as we move towards you. Always towards you, Jesus.
I pray that we lay down our pride, our need to be in control, our sense of what is ‘the right way’, our desires and allow our lips get used to the refrain: ‘what can I learn from you?’