Thursday, March 04, 2010
The Good Soil.
I've been thinking quite a bit over the past year about the way in which we as Christians tend to want to push each other into particular ways of worship. Even the most Liberal of my college friends can have incredibly firm ideas about what is the RIGHT way to conduct a church service. In fact it is often the most Liberal docrinally who (I have observed) can be the narrowest in this regard...
In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus talks about good and bad soil...Some of us land in good soil and grow. But we are not told any more about this good soil. Have we perhaps come to a point where we believe that the same soil is good for everyone?
Returning to the root of the analogy (sorry, bad pun), are we assuming that all plants do well in the same kind of conditions? Clearly looking at nature we see that this isn't the case. Plants need very different conditions to stay healthy. Plant a cactus in a swamp and it wouldn't get far and would probably be extremely sick - if not dead. Growth would be non existant. Plant a cactus in a hot dry and sunny place and bingo - it thrives. The opposite could be said of ivy which prefers dark, wetter, forested environments. Many plants need something strong and rigid to grow up. without that rigidity they would be unable to grow up towards the light. Others are quite capable of growing and supporting themselves amongst a variety of other plants...You get my drift.
The point is this:- we are just as differnet spiritually as a plant. Note: I am NOT talking about doctrine here but worship practice. Why do we assume that because a particular way of prayer or form of music works for us personally, that it will work for someone else? Why do we think for example, that all will love the structure of liturgical worship because we find God within the familiar language and practice or conversely, all will find it's rigidity dictatorial and oppressive just because we do?
My musings may explain why I have know a number of people who have thrived in one church which had a range of services and a variety of sorts of people present, whilst other people found it extremely hard to cope in a place where everyone didn't do things in the same way as one another. In the latter kind of situation, spiritual growth can be stunted because the environment is wrong for that person. Put the person into an environment suited to them and growth begins...and is often startlingly quick too!
I too have experienced others trying to squeeze me into a box which I just don't fit into and to try to force a type of spirituality upon me which doesn't help my growth but actually stunts it. It hasn't been a particularly helpful experience. Let's be less keen to assume that out way is the best for all and more willing to accept that practices which work to put people in touch with God can be extremely different.
As an about to be ordained priest it will be my role to find the ways in which my congregation can get in touch with God...these ways may be incredibly varied and may not suit me...but I must be prepared to try both old and new for the sake of the spiritual growth of the people.
I thank God that the Church of England in 2010 is becoming more and more varied in her worship practices...let's celebrate that and encourage it...after all, if it leads to spiritual growth, why would we want to stop it?