United in difference?

Casting an arithmetic eye over the number of Sunday services advertised in the Grimsby Telegraph recently, I discovered 21 different ‘expressions’ of Christianity taking place in 87 different sets of premises.  It was, after all, halfway through the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity.  Well, we were all together on the same half-page of small print. Anywhere else?

The main denominations, within themselves, embrace many approaches to worship and varied approaches to mission and outreach.  Rich treasure.  Smaller gatherings, often breakaway from an existing worship centre, reveal a bewildering number of shades of opinion and ‘certainty’ about Gospel realities.  The only ones to fear, perhaps, are those who insist they are right and the rest of us are lost and fallen.  Those who accept difference are, I am convinced, the ones who have begun to realise how amazingly wide the love of God, the accepted need for Jesus and the everywhere-at-once Holy Spirit truly are.

I’m a lifelong Methodist. Married an Anglican.  Genuine covenant relationship! Preached and worshipped in the churches of several persuasions, enjoyed the variety of styles and emphasis and been enriched as well as educated in them all.  At home with ‘other’ Christians.

The recent PROUD TO BE A METHODIST poster has irritated me.   I’m happy to be a Methodist but celebrating separateness angers me.  Pride?  Implying we’re better than the others?  That’s a nonsense, of course.

I saw a cartoon some years ago, set in the caveman days.  Outside one cave sat a modestly loin clothed man holding a placard with the wording: HERE BE CHRISTIANS.  That’ll do for me!  I’ll always settle for the things which bind us together in that all-encompassing, never-failing, utterly humbling love of God.

Walking through Lent without a denominational or sectarian label, mind open, heart aflame with hope, will bring us whoever and whatever we are to the ultimate eternal truths. Thanks be to God!

Brian Smith