OUR VALUES: PLACE
BY THE REV'D AUBREY SPEARS
JUNE 29TH, 2017
The sixth stated value of our diocese is place.
The place in which a church is located is not just some spot on the map where a church happens to gather. The local church is God’s church for that particular place.
When the Apostle Paul wrote to a church, he always identified his recipients by two realities: they were in Christ and they were in a particular place. For example, in 1 Corinthians 1:2, Paul wrote: “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus.” These two realities are intimately wedded together. We encounter Christ primarily “in the local congregation, as we gather around him to hear his address and to eat and drink of his life. The Christ we encounter is the one who stands with his face turned toward his world; having borne in his body the wound of the world, he sends us out from his table to work alongside the Spirit…in bringing hope and healing to his world” (Craig Bartholomew).
Taking Christ seriously requires us to take his world seriously. And to take this good but broken world seriously, we cannot drift off into vague generalities and abstractions. We must attend to the actual corner of the world in which our church is located. Life always occurs in specific and particular locations. In Wendell Berry’s breathtaking novel, Hannah Coulter, we are reminded that “Love in this world doesn’t come out of thin air. It is not something thought up. Like ourselves, it grows out of the ground. It has a body and a place.”
In Jeremiah 29:7 we read God’s instructions to the Israelite captives: “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” And how are they to put this into practice? Jeremiah 29:6 clearly provides the answer. They are to play the long game: settle down, build houses, plant gardens, and eat the produce. To exist for the glory of God and the good of the community, we must slow down and put down roots. Through restful attentiveness and stability we can begin to see the particular ways in which our place is flourishing and the particular ways in which it is not flourishing.
A church that journeys deeply into Christ will simultaneously journey deeply out into the particular place in which it is located, because the Church does not exist for itself but for God. And God is for the life of the world.
The Diocese of Christ our Hope’s mission is to plant, equip, and multiply disciple-making Anglican churches, and to support and serve their people and leaders in Christian life and mission.