I am addicted to Grantchester (a show on PBS about a priest in the Church of England). I admit it could be because I am envious of the hair of the main character (but then again what man tints his hair in the 1950’s?). Don’t worry. I won’t spoil anything if you haven’t watched it.
There’s a scene in the latest episode where the priest, Sydney Grantchester, is struggling with his calling. Should he stay in the Church or leave it? His housekeeper, who has become a dear friend, says to him: “Sydney, people need you. They look to you, not the Church.”
I have been haunted by those sentences these past days. We in the Church talk so much about fixing the Church as if it were a car in need of a tune up. We act as if we need a new model because fewer people want to buy. Yes, membership and attendance are declining. Yes, all institutions are at best under suspicion and at worst irrelevant.
But in AA we learn to pray for the wisdom to know the difference between what we can change and what we can’t. At the ripe age of 66, I have my hands full just trying to keep my own life and soul and intentions and actions in alignment with what I think the Lord wants from me and for me.
Our calling is to be true: true to our real self as God created us and true to the work that God calls us to do to heal a broken world. I no longer worry about institutions; I am focused on integrity and vulnerability. Do we yearn to align ourselves with God’s will so that our actions match our beliefs, and do we keep our hearts open to others and to the Holy One? If we do, institutions will grow as they will. Some will die and some will be born. At its heart Church isn’t a bureaucracy; it’s the faithful person in front of you who represents the face of Christ.
In my late 20’s I didn’t reconnect with the Church because I fell in love with the institution; I reconnected because I encountered people who had such love for God I wanted to be around them. I didn’t look to the Church; I looked to God lovers to show me what the Church is for.
It’s so easy to waste our time and our time is short. I don’t want a game plan for how the Church can survive. I want to live a life that will point beyond me to God and I want to find more and more people who are a window to the holy. I want to be inspired by others to live my life for God.
Like Sydney Grantchester, people need us and we need them because how else will we see the Lord?