Thursday, 26 October 2017

Winter Newsletter 2017: Article

Dear Friends

Reflections on Volmoed

The Winter edition has become, in the last couple of years, the instrument for me to reflect on our Church Weekend away at Volmoed. As you will see elsewhere in this Newsletter, it was once again a valuable time away in which relationships are formed and renewed: an important gift in a world where we so often struggle to connect face-to-face, and communication is in brief 240 character messages or text on a small screen. We had a good time, again!

On the Saturday morning we took time to reflect on our roots in Anglican culture going back to St Augustine of Canterbury’s arrival in Britain in 601 CE, through the challenging period of the “Tudor Saga” (1509-1603) that saw the Kingdom of Henry VIII excommunicated by the Pope and the English Church interdicted by Rome; the schism with Rome that continued under Edward VI and was somewhat repaired under Mary; to the orthodox – yet refreshed – Church during the reign of Elizabeth I (she was declared an unlawful Sovereign by the Pope), a Church committed to following a middle path between Roman Catholicism and Calvinism. We then reflected on our own experience of Anglicanism under the African Sun, and more specifically in Newlands.

We met in small groups for the latter, asking what it is that we value about our Anglican ethos today, and how we might become more relevant to the communities we serve through St Andrew’s. These are some of the responses that came out of our discussions:

There is value in belonging to a Church that is part of a worldwide, global community, willing to play a role the in secular and political discourse, and offering a broad commitment to inclusivity, structures for dialogue, and a focus on the power of prayer. Our teenagers expressed that the gift of forgiveness and a reminder that we can believe in something bigger than ourselves is really important.

A number of questions came up such as, “While the Church fills our need for diversity and different viewpoints, how do we explore this when we’re all very similar?” and our Teenagers asked, “How do we give back with a focus on community service where we can share our faith through what we do?” One answer offered was that St Andrew’s is a safe place from which we go out into our lives, and perhaps there is some way we can live the gift of reconciliation by creating dialogue amongst ourselves and with communities that may be in conflict, showing that anger and defensiveness can be held without resorting to violence.

Not unexpectedly, worship came up as a focus. While we value the different focuses of our three Sunday Services, we acknowledged the importance of always being welcoming of whoever attends. There was some thought that the Evening Service could focus on becoming Church Unusual, rather than Church as Usual! A rock band, opportunities for more interactive sermons, something different. A “Community Service” was suggested as a means of getting to know each other better, where we can talk with each other as well as worship.

We value being a family-focused Church at St Andrew’s, but questions were asked about where one fitted in if one didn’t fall into the “Family” demographic? What do we offer for single people, especially those under 50 who aren’t parents, younger folk who may not yet be professionals, older folk who may be divorced or widowed; where is the discourse for these various groups located? Home groups were mentioned as a possible response – and there are a few in the Parish -  and there is certainly room for the development of more groups as this is often a space where faith comes alive.

Our discussion also touched on our values, recognising that (obviously!) at St Andrew’s we hold to Christian values, but that we needed to be more explicit about those Christian values that are special to us, and in this light to make space for people to be welcome, and find ways to say, “You’re needed, wanted, included!” We need the courage to reach out, too, to our local community in an unthreatening manner, and it was suggested that advertising our activities through our Ministry to The Needy (MTN) to the Newlands community may be an avenue.

So as you can see our reflections were broad-ranging and engaging, and – as at least one person reflected – too brief! The purpose of our Annual “Volmoed Dialogue” is to have an opportunity to hear from each other, and there is no specific agenda for these conversations to impact in any special way on Church life. However, useful ideas do float to the surface, and it is likely at least some of it is Spirit-inspired. You may or may not have been present, but does any of the above strike a chord for you? Is there something you would like to see come to fruition? And if so, are you able to commit to helping us explore what this may mean for the way we do – or stop doing – things at St Andrew’s? If you wait for an invitation it may never materialise. Dawn and I have a sign at our front door: it says, “If you’re waiting for a sign, this is it!” This is your invitation!

Keep warm! Blessings,
Mark

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