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Hallo again to all.

Meetings. Bishops' meetings, primates' meetings, diocesan conventions, ecumenical dialogues, general synods, parochial church councils—it often seems that most of what we do is meet to discuss, debate, and resolve. There are those few people who seem to love meetings, and they often talk for minutes on end while others do try to appear interested. Though we typically find ourselves in the latter group, we sometimes find the idea of meetings intriguing.  Meetings, of course, support the structure of the church. They determine who is ordained and consecrated and how the fixing of broken pipes will be paid for, but they also decide who will make these decisions.  We meet to discuss business, relationships, liturgy, and theology.

It should not be a surprise that we have, for most of our lives, been fascinated by Anglican ecclesiology. The structure of the church occupies much of our Christian lives. As active participants in that church structure at many levels we have been accused of being more concerned with the church structure—whether building, liturgy, or polity—rather than being the church.

That accusation has often brought a bit of indignation and the 1970s hymn:

I am the church! You are the church!
We are the church together!
All who follow Jesus,
all around the world!
Yes, we're the church together!

The church is not a building;
the church is not a steeple;
the church is not a resting place;
the church is a people.

The song then goes on to describe the different sorts of people who are part of the church and what they may do therein. Though we find the hymn tiresome and simplistic, it is not wholly incorrect. We've seen many new uses for old church buildings. Transitional Housing, restaurants, and museums have become common residents of formerly sacred space. The Church of England's Closed Churches Division currently has 10 church buildings listed as available for sale or lease, and even lists several civic-minded suggestions for alternate use. Alternative church locations are all the rage as well. We've recently attended mass at coffee shops, in pubs, and in parks.

Yet, what is a building without its structure? Construction without scaffolding, a nation without a government? Those in the building trades know of the care that must be taken for a physical structure to be erected and stand firmly for posterity. Plans must be carefully drawn and measured, foundations must be poured, and proper techniques must be followed for a structure not to collapse under its own weight, or fall to the elements. Sometimes experts in certain materials, climate, or the historical integrity of the area are consulted. When care is not taken, whether for lack of funds or lack of concern, the carelessness is often evident within only a few years, sometimes with tragic results. It is imperative, then, that the church be supported with a structure erected with that same care and attention to detail as the buildings in which it worships. The structure of the church must buttress the church itself.

It is also in this structure that many parts of the church meet that might otherwise not. 'As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable'.* With Christ as the head and the church as his body, there are often meetings where the hand meets the foot or the shoulder. It is in meetings that we have met those who benefited from collections taken up in diocesan campaigns, and had the ramifications of actions taken in one province effect another explained by the other. While the church is worship, praise, thanksgiving, crying, laughing, healing, and serving, meetings are where we see yet another bit of God's work face to face.

See you next week.

Our Signatures

All of us at Anglicans Online

13 March 2016

*1 Corinthians 12 20-23

A thin blue line
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