First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world. For God, whom I serve with my spirit by announcing the gospel of his Son, is my witness that without ceasing I remember you always in my prayers, asking that by God’s will I may somehow at last succeed in coming to you. For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as I have among the rest of the Gentiles. I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish —hence my eagerness to proclaim the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
I’ve lived ‘in community’ a number of times in my life. Just like a family situation, you occasionally find yourself getting under each other’s feet, getting on people’s nerves, being frustrated with someone’s behaviour, unable to find a compromise, or even being angry about how someone’s behaved. Of course, as well as being the recipient, we too do our fair share to aggravate, frustrate or annoy. Community life can be a rough ride.
But community life can be inspiring. People encourage one another or give each other support. You can feel down and yet find yourself inspired by the wisdom and generosity of others. People can share a perspective on life that you’ve never seen, or offer a solution to a problem you’re struggling to see. And just as others can inspire, we too play our part in guiding and encouraging. Community living can open our eyes.
Church life is community living too. We may not live in the same house as others who share our Christian life, but when we gather in community (as our congregations tend to be ‘gathered’) we share together in the communal living of the Church. We should long to share with one another in spiritual gifts to strengthen each other. We should long to be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. We should long to take part in mission to share our faith with our local communities.
Yet we must remember that our Churches are not always places where people feel able to step over the threshold and be part of the community. Church life is difficult for people for a variety of reasons. While this restricts, we know that when we share communally, when we meet and build each other up, the life of the Church is enriched and strengthened and we can live God’s mission for the Church. We must break down barriers in our Church so we can all be encouraged and inspired by the common faith we share.
May we be inspired by faith as we inspire others. May we be encouraged in faith as we encourage others. May we be love for others as we seek to love the world, in Jesus’s name. Amen.
The Rev’d Dr Matthew Prevett, is the Trust Secretary for the Yorkshire Synod.