Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
Baptised and confirmed Catholic, I strayed into a charismatic Anglican congregation in my teens and an LGBT affirming denomination in my twenties. I was ordained and spent 25 years in ministry before joining the URC in 2012. Fr Michael’s open, generous, and inclusive grounding in the Faith stood me in good stead for what lay ahead. The exuberance of Charismatic worship, evangelical understanding of faith, and love of the Bible still delight me. The justice-driven approach of my previous denomination, its desire to include all who experienced rejection at the hands of the Church, along with its concern to use language wisely has a resonance with my URC journey. Each expression of Church has felt welcoming, life affirming – yet somewhat strange.
I find myself dipping into other expressions of Church for worship; I read theology from a range of perspectives and am informed by forms of worship from across the ages and a range of Christian expression. Our openness to many forms of Christian expression is a delight and is part of our ecumenical dream. The dream, however, may not always be part of our reality; we’ve moved away from Calvin’s desire for weekly Communion, the ministry of Eldership is not always the spiritual office we believe it to be, Reformed worship can be VERY wordy, we often deny ourselves the use of a variety of senses in worship, and our yearning for organic union hasn’t resulted in what we once hoped for.
The writer of 1 Peter saw the Church as a society of foreigners and exiles. We live in the world, even in the Church, with a sense of both welcome and strangeness. Maybe this is part of the tension inherent in our self-understanding of being Catholic and Reformed. We yearn for unity, proudly inhabit our own tradition, yet see what is lacking within it. Maybe our ecumenical dreams are informed by our ecumenical realities as we seek to be pilgrims yearning to arrive at our heavenly shrine.
Journeying God, be with us as we try to follow. Yearning God, bless us foreigners and exiles in the world and the Church. Dreaming God, help us to build Your dreams into our realities. Amen.
The Revd Andy Braunston, Minister for Digital Worship and Member of the Peedie Kirk, Orkney