Once some animals went to Heaven. The Golden Labrador asked God if it could sit on his left side, to keep him company. The Alsatian asked God if it could sit at his right side, to protect him. The cat said to God “you are in my seat”.
We have a cat. We live in its house. It directs us when it is time for food and when it is time to go out of the house – no cat flap here. If you’ve never had a cat it takes time to adapt to that “Guest – Host” situation – what was your house is now the cats house.
I wonder whether the Church may be falling into the potential trap of wanting to view the world from the doors of the Church, hoping that many would be attracted to the doors and wish to enter. We may stand at those doors, knowing what we perceive as love, warmth and welcome, and struggle to understand why people don’t want to move closer to the Church.
We have many outreach programmes where we go ‘out’, into foreign land, on ‘missions’ to bring back the oppressed, to gather ‘in the outcast’, those of course who are outcast and oppressed in our opinion.
These are worrying terms in my opinion. They originate from times of Christendom where the Church was front and centre, it was the Host. Today the Church is far from this position. Pushed by society into the margins at times, and is now the guest in the area. It is recognised by its traditions, by its large spaces which are ideal for the coffee morning, displaying art (as one person recently explained) and for scouts, and other youth work.
Perhaps it is time to re-imagine the Guest Host relationship for the Church?
If we are the Guest now, surely we need to change our perspective. We need to see the world from the perspective of the Host, society. The Church is unable to dictate the programme anymore – we need to ask what society wants of us?
So rather than going to a pub and offering a Christmas Service, what would the pub like the Church to do each month of the year?
Rather than offering a facility for free hot food from the church, what would the local drug and alcohol service like us to do for them?
Rather than offer a coffee morning for a local charity, what would they like the Church to do for them, to help them achieve their aims for those in need?
This might allow greater engagement with those groups, those pubs, agencies and charities which adorn our local community. It pushes us to different areas of society, maybe into areas that the Church have never been asked to be. You could call it outreach. I would not. I would refer to this as serving our community, allowing people to see God’s love in all of its abundance. Here people may be attracted to ask “Why are you doing this?” This is a lesson learnt so often as a Street Pastor and Street Angel.
We serve others where they are.
What are your thoughts?