April 2016

Together as one

‘Many hands make light work…’        ‘Teamwork makes the dream work…’

I don’t know about you, but I associate these sorts of phrases with American-style motivational speakers and managers who like to speak in clichés.  When I hear them, I feel myself wanting to respond:

‘Yes, but too many cooks spoil the broth…’
‘Yes, but vision becomes a nightmare with a big dream and a bad team…’

Since Christmas, we have been working our way through the book of Ezra at Centre+Point and Church+Praise.  Ezra was a priest, sent back to Jerusalem to help rebuild the city and the nation after 70 years in exile.

The people had returned, to find their beloved city in ruins, the Temple burned to the ground, the city walls pulled down.  It was devastating for them, particularly those who could remember what it had been like before.

But it was no good sitting around remembering the glory days (which were never actually quite as good as we think anyway).  It was no good sitting around telling stories about how magnificent the Temple used to be.  It was no use Ezra and Nehemiah letting the people wallow in self-pity wearing rose-tinted glasses: they had work to do.

And work they did: together.

‘When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, the people assembled together as one in Jerusalem.’  (Ezra 3.1, NIV)

The people came together – despite being afraid of the peoples all around them – to worship God by offering the sacrifices required by the Law (3.3), to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles (3.4) and to make freewill offerings to God (3.5).  They did all this before they started to build the Temple – before even they had laid the foundation.

In the magazine this month you will see a full-page notice about a Parish Day Away, on Saturday 7 May 2016.  Please put this date in your diaries!  David has asked me to start organising the day before he is back, to make sure as many of us as possible can come on the day away together.

Our venues are my dad’s churches in South Warwickshire.  St Michael’s is the church where I grew up, learned to play the piano, and preached my first sermon.  St Nicholas’ was burned down by an arson attack in 2008, rebuilt and reopened in 2014 – and won a prestigious architecture award in 2015.  We will begin the day at St Nicholas’ with worship and a look round, before heading to St Michael’s.

There are three aims of the day, which can all be summed up in that phrase from Ezra 3.1: together as one.

  1. To get to know one another better
    We have been a group of four churches for nearly ten years but we don’t all know each other. This is a chance to find out the name of that person you recognise but can never remember who they are, or to put a face to that name you’ve heard many times!
  1. To worship and eat together
    The early Christians met regularly to worship and eat together, and with good reason. They are powerful shared experiences, that help draw a community closer together.
  1. To pray and discuss God’s vision for our future together
    The exiles that had returned to Jerusalem didn’t start building before they had met together as one. We have some building work to do in our parishes, in a time of changes and challenges.  We need to meet, pray and discuss so we can meet those together as one.

Some people may think they don’t have much to say or to offer, that this sort of thing is not for them and best left to other people.  If that’s you, please don’t listen to that voice inside, but hear this instead: we are, together, the body of Christ, and we are poorer without you!

So, I cannot stress this enough:

You are all invited, because we are all, together, the church in this place.

 You all have something to contribute, even if that is simply being there!

I’m really excited that you will see my home church, and the amazing way St Nicholas’ Church has been restored.

But above all, I am excited that we can be together as one, to pray, sing, eat and discuss.  Working together, as the Israelites found, is the best – indeed only – way to meet the challenges we face.

One last cliché: united we stand, but divided we fall.  May we learn to stand together as one.

Ben Green

PS, if you want to look up the two churches, their websites are:

www.stmichaelschurch.co.uk

www.stnicholasrestored.co.uk