In preparation fro writing my 23rd Annual Report as Rector of St. Philip Church, I have been reflecting on the values to which I aspire for us as a church. Here, with a few additional reflections, is the second group of five values:
despite the hurt we cause, we aim to approach one another
with the openness and acceptance of “forgiveness”
which is the true sign of freedom
we celebrate the uniqueness of every human being
and honour and respect the particular ways
God is at work in all manifestations of the Spirit
we are less trapped in the dramas that often afflict communities
and live with growing steadiness,
openness, flexibility, and freedom
we are less controlled by external forces ,
and more independent of opinions, social norms,
expectations, and demands imposed by others
we experience a consistent call to surrender more deeply
to the power of love
and to live in the abundance of God
My fifth value in the first group of values I posted was intentionally provocative and did puzzle some people upon first reading. I wrote,
we acknowledge that, as people who imperfectly manifest
the image of God in which we were created,
we will cause hurt along the way
This is simply honest and realistic. There are no perfect communities. In every community that includes people, hurt will happen. We never fully live up to the luminous beauty of that image of God in which we were created and so we fail to communicate effectively. We occasionally respond from our own wounded small self. We put ourselves and our needs at the centre of life and so we do “cause hurt along the way.”
Churches are no different. People get hurt in church communities. But, in Christian community we “aim to approach one another with the openness and acceptance of ‘forgiveness’.”
To start with forgiveness means we begin each day without carrying along a huge ledger of past wrongs, grievances, and scores to settle. We enter into each encounter with the openness that is only possible because we know that there is in us a strength and power of love that is greater than any harm we may ever suffer.
We trust that, no matter how difficult, awkward, or painful any relationship may be, God is at work in every human being on earth. We seek to discern that work of God even in the person by whom we feel we have been hurt. Of course we are sensible and do not put ourselves unnecessarily in harm’s way. But we experience a “growing steadiness, openness, flexibility, and freedom” that are signs of the depth and strength of God’s work in our own lives.
From this position of deep inner security, we are able to live in relationship to all people with true freedom. We are no longer controlled by the reactions or responses of other people. We experience the “the abundance of God” which set us free to live in obedience to the Spirit of Love we see revealed fully in the person of Jesus.
Church is the place where we get to practice living from abundance. Apart from our basic safety, there is nothing much we need to protect. Our lives flow from the endless resource of a love that is stronger than death and a goodness that is greater than all harm.