Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem. Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by. A great number of people would also gather from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.
The United Reformed Church gives thanks for the common life of the Church, wherein the people of God, being made members one of another, are called to love and serve one another and all people everywhere and to grow together in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Participating in the common life of the Church within the local church, they enter into the life of the Church throughout the world. With that whole Church they also share in the life of the Church in all ages and in the communion of saints have fellowship with the Church triumphant. (16)
Recently I read New Testament scholar Paula Gooder’s book, ‘Phoebe’, that imagines the story of the deacon named thus referred to by St Paul in Romans 16.1. Gooder, an Anglican laywoman currently serving as Canon Chancellor at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, imagines the Church and churches at the time of Acts as tight knit communities of people for whom encounter with Jesus Christ quite literally brought a sense of liberation. These communities in many ways shared a very obvious common life, of meals, service, study and worship spent together. Baptism was a big deal which came with a high cost particularly for those coming to Christian faith from the higher echelons of imperial Roman society. In many ways early Christians had little choice but to stand together.
We might ponder what this idea of ‘common life’ referred to in the Basis of Union means for us now. Perhaps as we live now with Covid 19 and the experience of lockdown and how our churches had to respond to that we are better place to think again about what it means to live as Christian community. The idea that we might belong to each other is a tricky one for our modern ears. We might well struggle with any suggestion that someone else can tell us what we should(n’t) do with our energy, time, and money. A more helpful way of looking at this might be around mutual accountability. I am accountable to you as you are accountable to me. We are called to love and serve each other and all people. We are called to engage in Church through the local church. We are interconnected and interdependent as individuals and as local churches and as denominations. There is a sense that when one limps we all limp but also when one limps others can help carry that friend until they have regained their strength and if they can’t we can help carry our friend. Our relationship with Christ is deeper, our friendships are stronger, our service is more effective, when we pray, stand, and serve side by side.
Creator God, we give thanks for the relationships between us. Help us to remember and celebrate these relationships in good times and bad. Remind us to celebrate one another. Help us to depend on one another both in good times and bad.
Build up our common life, for the sake of our witness to your Son and for the sake of his kingdom. In the strength of the Holy Spirit we pray. Amen.
The Rev’d Sarah Moore is Transition Champion for the National Synod of Scotland, and the Assistant Clerk of the General Assembly.
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