Elizabeth Oldfield Part II. About the church and how we deal with those who are different to ourselves.
Some years ago, there was a married couple who had started on their Christian journey quite recently, and church was for them a new experience. They were amazed to be getting to know people in our church who acted without any self interest – just out of love and concern. It seemed that here was the perfect expression of community.
It took a while, but eventually they came to realise that we were fallible human beings, who were sometimes selfish, sometimes awkward or just plain difficult to get along with, but that the church was fundamentally a good place to be. That isn’t everyone’s experience, but Elizabeth Oldfield has a similar take ….
She says this about her experience of church. “After a while I came to realise that the church as an institution has a lot wrong with it; churches in general do not live up to the Christian gospel, or the calling of Jesus in any way, shape or form, but I’m less and less keen on focussing on just that. I feel like the more I spend time with really diverse groups of people who have no experience of church whatsoever, the more I realise what this gift (the church) is – this imperfect, broken, but beautiful gift. I have been in all kinds of (church) communities, and my experience is that they don’t always navigate every kind of difference well, but they do navigate a lot of differences well, and are certainly the local institution which is trying its hardest to navigate difference. There is at least an intention and a desire to notice difference and to model the way that we are supposed to be working with those differences, noticing our failings and modelling the kingdom of God.”
Grace and peace to you, particularly to those of you who have a calling to work for mutual understanding in situations or communities, or families, or organisations etc where there is difference and especially where tension is also present.
Elizabeth Oldfield is director of the thinktank Theos
and has a podcast – The Sacred