Friday, 30 April 2010

Personality or statesmanship? Style or substance?

I went to the Election hustings on Wednesday night in our Church. It was a good event; there were between 350 and 400 people there, all to hear the seven candidates standing for election in Edinburgh South West. It was organised by the Juniper Green, Currie and Balerno Community Councils and held in the Church as the only venue big enough for that size of audience. Cliff Beevers was in the chair.

Each candidate was given the opportunity to make an opening and closing statement to persuade us that we should give them our vote and there were questions. Some of the questions were probing, some were too big for people to answer in one minute; some were capable of being answered in a number of different ways and allowed the candidates not to answer at all if they were so minded. Questions about immigration, Trident, the Scottish budget, pensions and energy prices, Afghanistan, climate change and the way we elect our government were all asked and answered by each candidate in turn. There was even some heckling from the floor.

To keep interested, I started giving people marks out of 3. (I got this from a friend of mine who used to do it for speakers at our Christian Union group, except that Peter gave marks for content, style, illustrations, humour etc.) My marking had nothing to do with the content of what the candidates said, but was merely a style mark. I won't tell you how they all scored; for some it would be embarrassing, but I was impressed by some and very unimpressed by others. I was impressed by some in some of their contributions, but not in other ways.

The personality vote had to go to Colin Fox, the Scottish Socialist Party candidate. Of all of them, he was the most relaxed and offered the most humour; I've little doubt that he will have won himself some votes after that performance.

On the other hand, the statesman vote has to go to Alistair Darling. He was composed throughout and his answers were very professionally given; nothing seemed to throw him off track, unlike some of the others.

Please don't think there are clues here to my voting intentions next Thursday - there may be, but there may not be!

Which is more important - style or substance? Personality or statesmanship? You have to decide on that for yourself.

So much of what we debate in Churches is about style, about the way we do things. There is a pressure to adopt a particular style of music and worship, or we complain about the style (or lack of it) of the minister's preaching, or the way someone goes about things. Often, churches fall out over the question of style and personality, when in fact substance matters far more!

it would be good to have both substance and style, so that we offer the words of eternal life in a really attractive way; now, how do we do that?

Friday, 16 April 2010

Better together!

This blog is the product of a number of events that have taken place this week and have caused me to reflect on the real nature of the Church. Two families have been bereaved this week, one with a lady of 76 who had lived life to the full, the other a 3-year old girl who was full of enthusiasm for life; watching the families react and the Church react to these situations is part of my reflection. In our Church Wednesday Bible Study we looked at Acts 18 and the ministry of Priscilla and Aquila, a couple who were Paul's friends and who worked alongside him, looking after him, helping others quietly.

We are Church who:
  • worship together
  • pray together
  • laugh together
  • cry together
  • learn together
  • make decisions together
  • have cups of tea together
  • walk together
  • play together
  • discuss the Bible together
  • look after our buildings together
  • do the garden together
  • clean the halls together
  • care for and look after one another together
  • serve the community together
  • have conversations about all sorts of things together
  • support one another when life is hard
  • celebrate together
  • travel to Cambodia together

So often, people see Church as 'what I can get' and it is an individual thing; if Church doesn't satisfy me I either stop coming or move on to a new one that will give me what I want. Yes, it is true that each one of us has our own individual relationship with God for which we alone are responsible; but the most important word in that list is 'together'. We are brought together by Christ and by the faith we share, and we then have to give that bond some flesh and bones in the way that we live and behave. Sadly Christians also have a name for falling out together and fighting and being in conflict together.

How do we get this right? What do we have to do to nurture this life together? Surely it is better together, even if more difficult. How do we make it work?