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News and views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
Issue 2 Easter 2007

Preaching to the converted?


Convert is an interesting word. The second definition to be found in the Collins Concise Dictionary of the English Language is to cause (someone) to change in belief, opinion etc.

When cornered by someone who considers the place and conversation safe I am told, often, that they are not religious, dont go to church, but believe in God. This is followed by the commonly-held view that you dont have to go to church to be a Christian: too much doctrine, too much ceremony, and being religious means that you cant enjoy the finer things of life.

I find it hard to accept all the opinions expressed, but I do respect them and fully understand what I think is a defensive position. But this is not a condescending remark. If I ask myself why a defensive position is taken, I am forced to face an uncomfortable reality: Christians are not always the experts on being Christian. Some think of us as a group who have all the answers to the unanswerable. We know best. It follows that we are better. It follows again that those not of our like mind have no legitimate position to take. It is glib to say that the Church has a lot to answer for, but I think it is true. There are those who argue that God is more easily found outside the Church than within they have a point.

If as a community we are to reflect our understanding of God with more integrity, then we must first look to ourselves. We need to be converted. We have to change from religious exclusiveness to Christ-like inclusiveness. And recognise that we can only be of use to the wider community if we become more truly a Christ-like community ourselves.

Over recent years we have formally examined ourselves through a Parish Review; we learned a lot. Now we are looking at how we impact on the wider community. What have we humbly to offer and what must we graciously receive? What are the insights and wisdoms of good practice in living together, caring for each other? Whilst expressing as best we can what we so sincerely believe to be true about the world and Gods love, we are forced to re-consider what it is to be religious. How we do that without being oppressive? How do we present our quest for truth so that others will join us and help us on our way? How do we convert others to the validity of our journey? These are the questions that we look to confront and address.