A Christmastide blog26 December 2020
It's been a strange Christmas. Ever since I moved in with Lesley, Christmas Day has been shared with friends for a traditional dinner followed by games into the evening. This year we were just us. And there was no church service to go to.
In fact we haven't been to church since early March, and part of me doesn't miss it. Should I be worried about that? After all, I've been taking services since the late sixties, and I enjoyed all the preparation that was needed. But over the last twenty or so years my understanding of what we call The Faith has changed radically from what I used to believe. And that's the main reason for switching my churchgoing, after my retirement in 2003, from the Church of England to the Methodist Church. I had begun to wish that I didn't have to use a liturgy that didn't fit with my theology, although that sounds like sheer arrogance.
Here I make the point that there's a difference between believing about something and believing in something. If I don't believe in the words I say as a minister, that becomes a matter of integrity - and that point has been reached. So while I missed the sense of community and the enjoyment of making new friends in the local church here in Clitheroe over the last few months (and their welcome when we turned up there in February last was very warm), I didn't miss having to express traditional and well-worn beliefs with my fingers crossed.
It is so easy for worship to become little more than following a ritual, and there can be a value in repeating those significant phrases over and over. But repetition quickly becomes automatic, and the significance of the words is lost in the habit. So I developed several communion liturgies from various sources which I have used in churches and on cruise ships, and quite often this has led to useful discussions about what we actually do believe, and whether what we actually do believe resonates with the official liturgies of our churches.
I will say this only once (we've loved watching 'Allo 'Allo DVDs!): the Nicene Creed has much to say about what we should believe and nothing about how we should live. The Sermon on the Mount has much about how we should live and nothing about what we should believe. As they say nowadays, go figure!
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