I in invite you to do some balcony viewing viewing across the landscape of the Canberra Region Presbytery.
We have reviewed our Property and how we use it for ministry and mission.
We have also looked at the Health & Wellbeing of congregations: what is the health and wellbeing of your congregation?
Marks of the Movement have been explored as well: holding in tension the sense of being a movement of the Spirit and the necessary processes of good order in an institution.
Now as a presbytery we are being invited to turn our attention to Faith Formation.
If we are to be healthy churches who practice wellbeing in relationship with God, then faith formation lies at the centre of our very being as communities of faith. It is this practice of intentionally listening to the “Call” of God on our lives that draws us into communities of faith.
It is this solid basis of attending to our faith and the spiritual practices of Christian living that will enable communities of faith to discern the mission of God in our local areas. Faith Formation enables communities of faith to understand themselves to be also communities that are “Sent” into the world for the sake of the world to be the hands and feet of Christ.
In tackling Faith Formation as a presbytery and as a council of the Uniting Church, we start to take seriously the work of creating an eco-system where people can explore faith inter-generationally. An Eco-system is where individuals, families and communities of faith adopt practices that create a rhyme to life – how we live and the priorities we adopt, bear witness to our faith.
Another way to look at this question of faith formation is to turn our attention to the scriptures, like the passage from Mark 12: 28-33. In this reading we hear that one of the basic tenets of the Christian faith is summed up in the question “how shall I/we live a “good life” both here and now and into the future?”
All three synoptic gospels tackle this question in the encounter with Jesus by a Lawyer, a Scribe or a Pharisee, depending on the gospel account. In two of the accounts the people come trying to trick Jesus into taking up a religious/political position that they could then oppose and discredit him. Jesus turns the question around and back towards the questioner.
In Mark’s account the Scribe enters the debate and gets more than perhaps he expected from the Law/Torah. Jesus offers a way to live in relationship with God and neighbour.
“Hear O Israel: the Lord our God is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. You shall love your neighbour as yourself” Mark 12:29-30
The Christian faith is not so much about signing up to a set of doctrines but to a way of life. It is as easy and as hard as that, it is a movement that individuals and communities take on and shape their way of life around. The Rev Dr Chris Budden in a recent sermon posed this same idea, like this:
“Faith isn’t about the spiritual things, faith is about the way we inhabit the world. Or to put it another way, faith is about the way we engage with the ordinary moments of life as a people who seek to follow the teachings and life of Jesus”.
All this begs a series of questions for the life of faith for congregations and individuals who take seriously the ministry and mission context they find themselves in presently.
How do we live as people of faith in this present time?
What practices and rhythms will we adopt and follow, to shape our lives in community?
What if as a community of faith, we take seriously being people, who integrate into our very existence, practices and ways of being that love God and love our neighbours as ourselves?
What resources and encouragement do you seek to live such a life of faith and spiritual practice?
“Faith is about the way we inhabit the world" not just Sunday morning or a little bit here and there, but rather 24/7.
Not just in the physical world but digitally and through virtual communities.
Not just with the people we know and hold views like our own but everyone.
The church has given different expressions to this desire to be disciples of Jesus across the ages in the early part of the 1st century the Jesus Movement: gathered in communities of faith, practicing collective participation in hearing from the scriptures, prayer and praise. They practiced their faith through supporting each other physically and materially and serving those in need and those on margins of society. People like widows and orphans. It was in many ways a private faith and action integrated into everyday life and it brought them into conflict with the states values and practices
As time went on the state sort to bring the Jesus Movement into the states/kings control. We generally call this time Christendom. The church got into bed with the King/State. The church was at the centre of society and influenced government and society generally. The church practiced public worship and rites of passage, integrating people into the faith and the society. However, the practice of faith was generally done in private.
In the present time, the churches role in society has shifted away from the centre of society to the margins. We generally call this time post-modernity. The church generally has little influence on government policy and its moral stances are dismissed and the linkage once seen clearly by society to the practice of faith has been severed. There is a very real tension between Movement and Institution and a move away from people joining up to organisations generally.
However in this ”post era”, there is also a seeking for spiritual meaning and purpose in life, of practicing faith in the way people live and the rhythms they adopt. (That may not include attending worship on a Sunday morning.)
Alongside of this is public action that seeks to speak into the public sphere an alternative ethic of life.
The church seeks to transform peoples experience of social exclusion and alienation and so enters into “mission” to deliver services, to be a transformative catalyst wherever people encounter the “other”. At the heart of such a way of life is the Christian faith and the formation of people who are deeply rooted in the faith, who understand why they engage with people on the margins. Who adopt ways of inhabiting the world that offer people a place to belong, a purpose to believe in and a task to do.
I wonder how in your congregation you go about doing some of these things?
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