Ensuring that our welcomes and our communities are inclusive is a common call in our culture.
When we call for the church to be inclusive, what are we seeking? Do we mean that we want to make it easily possible for everyone to feel at home in the church?
A healthy church is the place where people who seek Christ will find a home and will feel included.
However for those who are not seeking Christ the church will not be a comfortable place.
Let me share from my own experience.
When I become luke-warm in my desire to live in relationship with Christ, every aspect of the life of the church (the people, the doctrine, and the liturgy) becomes an irritation and I feel unwelcome and even excluded.
However when I am passionate about growing in relationship with Jesus Christ, the church (even with its many imperfections and limitations) is a more life-giving environment than I have been able to find anywhere else and I feel included, welcome and at home.
The church is not called to be a place where every person feels effortlessly at home, but an environment of growth for people who seek maturity of faith.
Tragically over the centuries we have lost sight of the foundational fact: the church was instituted by Jesus Christ as we sing in the great old hymn “the church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ Our Lord”. We fast-track the death of our Christian communities when we shift our dependance from Christ and focus on our human interactions and projects.
When a Christian parish or group is dying the members can make the mistake of working hard to re-invent themselves with committee meetings to re-write their purpose, and the new mission statement will mention Christ only in passing if at all.
We forget that a church community is an effective instrument of Jesus Christ only when its members are dependant on Christ for everything. Yes the many activities of a Christian community are important. But if these activities become the central focus then we have just another group of good people doing good.
If a community does not strive to be dependant on Christ and work as the instrument of Christ it cannot be called a Christian church community.
This is why in a Catholic parish the central activities of the community are the celebration of the sacraments, also instituted by Jesus Christ. Everything else flows from these events of divine presence among us.
It is tragic that many people who are seeking Christ do not feel included in many church communities. Where this is the situation there may need to be change both in the people and in the church community.
If I don’t feel at home in a Christian church community, I can either blame the community, or allow the church (people, teaching, gospel etc) to challenge me.
I was thinking as I was preparing this that if the church was perfect I would have no need for Christ!
When I allow this to happen my growth in relationship with Jesus is immediate and abundant.
- Invite Jesus to reveal to you ways in which your church / faith community challenges you to grow to greater maturity of faith.