The church as home – reflections on Mark 9:33-37

Published on: 1 November 2018

"Breaking down barriers and being a place that recognises that we're all unfit and need God and each other to get better"

I’ve recently joined the gym. If anyone has seen how much I pant after walking up the stairs to the new deluxe even higher bellringing chamber at St Peter Mancroft, they’ll know how much I need the exercise.

The gym brings out all sorts of feelings for me, as I have a lot of emotional baggage about sport and exercise, having been the worst PE student in the history of the world. While there, I started reflecting on how I felt going into the gym.

I felt very intimidated to start with, there were all the machines I didn’t really understand (even though I’d had a short induction). Not to mention the people, who all seemed to be very physically fit, who knew what they were doing, I was worried about them judging me for my unfitness and weakness or violating an etiquette I didn’t even know about.

Then I realised something, that the gym should be a place more for those who are unfit, than those who are fit. The unfit need the gym more than the fit, and it should be a place where the unfit get fitter, not an already fit club.

Do you think this might have echoes with church?

Just change the context slightly, perhaps this is a description of the church. What we do on a Sunday is objectively weird.

Like the machines that I didn’t understand, our services too can be an alien culture to newcomers, with vocabulary they don’t understand.

Imagine yourself in the shoes of someone who has never been to church before. Would it be an easy experience?

Like the people at the gym, we all know what we’re doing (clergy not included), like all those fit people. Perhaps that can be intimidating. Perhaps people feel judged if they sit down or stand up in the wrong places, or don’t quite know where they are or what to do. There’s lots of things we do, lots of specialised things that we don’t even realise we’re doing.

In organisations the people set the culture, the people in the gym set the culture, as do the people in the church.

The Church should exist for the people outside it as well as the people within it. For the fit and the unfit. People find us intimidating.

But we can overcome this with welcome, with setting a culture that makes people feel at home. Breaking down barriers and being a place that recognises that we’re all unfit and need God and each other to get better.

We can argue over the minor things, over who does this or that, or like the disciples, “who is the greatest”, the best Christian. Or even try to outdo each other.

Or we can welcome people with wonder, in the way that children often naturally do. Jesus makes it clear in our reading from Mark that being humble, open and inquisitive is the way to true greatness.

We are a community, hoping to be a welcoming and inspiring place for all. That’s how we make church home for all who come through our doors.

Because everyone deserves a spiritual home. Even if they have eaten all the pies.


Articles in this issue...

Supporting strangers and sojourners

Sally Clarke, who worships at St Stephens, Norwich, shares her individual approach in offering a home, not only to “regular” lodgers, but sometimes to those who others might think twice about accepting.

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Creating a home from home

When most people are settling into retirement, one couple took on a major project to provide a home from home for students. Here is their roller-coaster tale of the past two years.

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Adoption; the core of who we are

Without adoption, our Christian story might have been radically different. Christ’s earliest moments teach us to extend family generously, for our salvation as well as others’.

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What makes a home?

The cat’s made herself at home. After a year of upheaval, moving from Oulton Broad, Lowestoft, to Norwich (where she was bullied by a streetwise city cat) and then again to Sparham, Mo our 15-year-old cat has decided country life is the thing. She has also set up home in my PA’s office next door.

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A sense of belonging

Reflecting on home and family, I recall my own happy childhood when I naively believed everyone’s experience was similar. I was wrong. Family and home hold different meanings for people.

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Faith at home

Research by the Church of England has highlighted that one of the most important factors in enabling children to continue in faith through to adulthood is the support they receive from their family – and yet the Faith in our families report published last year by Care for the Family showed a widespread lack of confidence in parents and a lack of tools to help.

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Care Home Friends

Home and family comes in many different shapes and guises. One village church in Norfolk is making a real impact on the elderly in their community.

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Home at the heart of the Cathedral family

Before I worked in a cathedral l had never considered what such a majestic building really meant. Visiting cathedrals as a child I remember feeling unnerved within vast, cold space, stunned by stained glass windows, bemused by weird smells and strange objects. I recall the word “Shush” being used a lot too.

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Our house, in the middle of our street

Not content with opening their home to others, Sue and Gary Moore, member of the Church Army, have gone one stop further by purchasing a second home for the use of those living in their community near Dereham, and calling it 'Our House'. Biddy Collyer went to meet them.

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