Where is the Church?

Posted on 18th April, 2020

For most of us, the closure of the physical church-buildings is strange and disquieting. These mute monuments watch the passage of our lives with all the sorrows and joys, beginnings and ends. Old Catholics in England care very much about buildings, if only because they have none. Yet most Christian clergy - Anglican, Methodist, RC, etc. - are now bedroom bishops, one minister-friend remarking that although his denomination had vacated the praise of God, Methodist Insurance must still be obeyed!

 

My own feeling is that all those streaming-clergy secretly worry that, when the doors reopen, not quite so many will come back. Disrupting personal-habits is one thing, but those of centuries and millennia might be fatal. Buildings lend the clergy and their flocks a certain importance - they wreak of continuity and substance. Who can doubt that something around for centuries has something worth pondering? It's very different when Rev Reg is playing with Hovis on a webcam.

 

In that insecurity, we perhaps espy the clergy's sense of their lack of substance. They really do bear little resemblance to the Redeemer; their sufferings, often self-inflicted, have had nothing noble in them and their good deeds few and far between. Perhaps the bishops, minus their cathedrals, sense how ambition led them to a mitre rather than the Holy Ghost. And what about all those clergywomen? Might they now doubt that all those Bishopesses and priestesses ever really existed?

 

The clergy of the most ancient churches in the land are now having to deal with the "new" forms of faith, which have a curious predilection for the ancient. Many will celebrate the mass or office according to ancient forms, rather than the committee-written rites of the 1970s and later. Clerics without the burden of a parish, or of constant public-parade, can fashion his spiritual life according to his own lights. Very often, he will defer to the insights of the past, which he finds to be of substance.

 

The strange thing is that these churchless clergy are often more faithful to the Church's essence (as found in her tradition) than the ordained line-managers of the high-street names. Those large, impressive buildings can seem a little like a substitute for substance with some of the less glorious clergy. With Old Catholic clerics, there isn't a building to hide in, unless it's been hired for the day.

 

Our Lord reminds us that he can raise up sons for Abraham from the very stones. Just right now, it looks like he is raising up new sons without them.

 

O Lord, have mercy. Ye saints, pray.

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