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March Open Forum

20 March 2009 No Comment

Map Showing Sudbury ChurchesMore than 60 people heard Jamie Allen, Vicar of St Andrew’s, Great Cornard, speak about The Church in the Community at the recent Open Forum of Churches Together in Sudbury & District.

Here is a summary of his talk.

Discerning how God is calling us to be Salt and Light to our community…

• Our Gospel is of justice and peace in a troubled nation; in the face of consumerism we stand for not what we have but how we love one-another. In the face of no value on commitment and permenance we stand for marriage and strong family values. Where there is much isolation, we stand for hospitality and welcome of strangers and immigrants. We are concerned not with material richness, but how we care for the weakest among us.

• Has God placed on your heart a burden of prayer for your community ? We shared some of these, which included being church to Springlands and valuing that community; providing a safe space for youth in Glemsford (which has been brought to fruition) and providing support for families in need of parenting help.

salt-light-2.gif• Matthew 5:13-16 You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?… You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden… Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

• Not a lot of salt is required to make a remarkable difference to a meal… and just the right amount must be added. It also has remarkable preservative characteristics. So what does being that salt mean in terms of discipleship and mission – it means not staying in the salt pot, even it’s a very beautiful one, but of course mingling as part of the recipe. Salt of the earth, not of the church.

• Radically (!) its worth reflecting on the fact that in some ways our church buildings are a blessing to us – because they give us a physical presence in a community or a parish and are a springboard to us taking action in that community. They are anchors of hope. There are also a physical expression of ourselves in that place. So what do they say about us ? Do they appear open or closed ? Are they used during the week regularly for prayer ? How easy is it to cross the threshold ?

• ‘You really have to go down to the ground to find the very poorest who have no voice. Local churches work with everyone. They know the poorest people in the village, because they live there.’ Pastor Cuthbert Gondwe (Malawi) –
‘They used to tell us that the Christians are compassionate, yet we are dubious; but today we believe it. In all of our history, no one has ever given us food aid. This time we have been taken notice of. The Christians are welcome among us.’ Recipient of food aid, Niger…. sounds good – but what about Sudbury ?! How about our immediate communities – are we focused on loving them in this way ?

• Remembering Jesus standing up in the temple and reading from the Isaiah scroll, through grace we are also called to :

* bring “good news to the poor” (the redundant ?)

* bring “liberty to captives” – (by addiction or violence or poor health?

* bring “new sight to the blind” (think of some aspects of the internet)

* “set the downtrodden free” (offering hope where there is little)
…and must answer to how we are serving “the least of these” if we are followers of Jesus. We are called in a special way to serve the poor and vulnerable in our communities – are we getting stuck in ?

• SO given that our churches are called to be the starting points for “salt” and “light” to be mingled into the recipe, we briefly discussed the following questions as pointers in this :

• What do our next-door neighbours in the street of our building think of us ?
• Have we asked them ? What three good points / not-so-good points might they respond with ?
• What are we doing for our immediate community ?
• How do we look :
– Open ?
– Shut ? (Is daily prayer visibly going on ?)
– Safe to cross the threshold ?
• What is our prayer burden ? And are there ways that we can gather others in our church with a similar prayer burden, and work together in bringing a project into being ?
• We discussed how believing can often start with belonging. But how can we encourage people to belong… it is perhaps obliquely through this kind of simply saltiness, because building relationships which are founded on self-giving love without judgment (leaving this aspect entirely to the Holy Spirit) can be the basis of trust being formed. That trust can then enable people to cross the thresholds of our churches and feel safe to explore faith and what it is to worship.


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