Christ Church Gabriola Covenanting Service April 15,2018
Sermon given by Rev.Jim Holland
I want to thank Karen for the privilege of preaching this afternoon.
I have another friend who was recently assigned as the rector of a church, in another part of the country. My friend arrived for his first Sunday service and as he entered the church during the opening hymn, he was surprised to see that half the congregation stood and half stayed sitting. When they got to the altar he leaned over to the liturgical assistant and whispered, “is it the tradition in this parish to stand or sit during hymns?” The assistant simply shook his head. During the offertory hymn, it was the same thing. Half stood and the others sat. He asked the liturgical assistant, “What is the tradition in this church?” The man rolled his eyes again and shook his head from side to side. As the final hymn began, half the congregation stood and to the amazement of the priest, those who were standing began to grab the people who were sitting trying to pull them up by their hair. The people who were sitting started yanking on the standing ones trying to pull them into their seats. As the hymn went on, things got totally out of control. Hymn books flew through the air, seats were knocked about and children ran screaming out of the building. The priest turned to the liturgical assistant but was so distressed that he couldn’t speak. The liturgical assistant waved his hand at the chaos in the church and said, " that is our tradition."
I am very happy to be here at Christ Church Gabriola this afternoon. It is so calm and friendly. But there is, of course, something about being church….I wouldn’t suggest that the church generates conflict but it certainly has its share.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that we just heard, Paul is warning people about allowing the conflicts of the day to divide them In a sense, the history of Christianity has evolved as a series of conflicts and resolutions ( or partial resolutions) which often developed into new conflicts which need new resolutions. The very creeds of our prayer books are not only statements of faith, they are compromise positions that resulted from form hard-fought debates among the early Christians over the nature of Jesus, debates in which many put their lives on the line for what they believed.
The Anglican Church was born out of a political struggle between the English church and the Church of Rome. And the birth of the United Church of Canada in the 1920s, was fraught with its own struggles. We have all seen bitter disputes over the blessings of same-sex blessings, a debate which resulted in the exodus of many of our Anglican brothers and sisters who have formed their own Anglican community.
There is nothing wrong with conflict or disagreement. Conflict is the inevitable companion of change and there will be disagreements whenever new ideas make the scene. But there is a difference between debate as a way to bring wisdom to a situation and power struggles designed to prove I am right and you are wrong. We have too much of the latter in our Christian history.
So, is this our tradition? Are we doomed to live our Christian life fighting over who is right and who is wrong?
Tradition is the way in which we live out our history. It is the way we worship and the way we structure our church communities. But tradition and history are not the same thing. Our traditions are informed by our history with all its contentiousness. But our history need not determine how we live our Christian faith.
The community of Christ Church has flown in the face of centuries-long tradition of division and separation and has had a part in beginning to reverse that trend; changing the course of church history by binding ancient wounds and creating a community that is safe and accepting and welcoming of whoever comes through the door. And along with that, you have engaged in the very challenging work of bringing together disparate worship styles in a way that honours each.
I believe that what you have discovered is the deeper, more fundamental source of our faith; you have found the spirit of the early church that is so beautifully expressed in the readings that Karen selected for this afternoon, the spirit of unity and singleness of heart and hope.
All of those who believed came together. They sold their possessions and belongings and divided them up to everyone in proportion to their various needs. Day by day they were all together attending the temple. They broke bread in their various houses and ate their food with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and standing in favour with all the people.
We know that these readings were not chosen randomly or without prayerful consideration and I see in them a commitment on Karen’s part to stand with you on your journey toward a new kind of unity and reconciliation. I see in them a commitment on her part to continually remind you of what is important on this journey, the unity that comes from worshipping and working together. I see in these readings Karen’s commitment to constantly call you to a deeper understanding of the outward signs and symbols of our faith.
The idea of selling everything and giving it to the community is not a popular idea these days. It sounds cultish but there is a way in which we are still called to bring ourselves in a complete way to the table, and to lay on the table everything we are,our opinions, preferences, our demands and our quirks, to give up all the pettiness and strive to be of one mind when it comes to the church; to hold lightly the doctrine and dogma and protocols that are, after all products of a human attempt to understand the divine.
The road you have chosen is not the easiest one, but it is the one with the most promise for the church at large. Because, as I have told you before, you are not just working to make Christ Church Gabriola a healthy Christian community; the work that you are doing has significance for the whole church.
This afternoon is a time to celebrate how your work has paid off in the person of the minister that you have attracted to lead you. I know that she will be blessed by you and that you will benefit from her leadership, her energy, her youth, her creativity. My hope is that you will give her space and the nurturing she needs to lead you to and through the next phase of your journey together. This journey you are on together will continue to take a great deal of patience and tolerance and openness, and in the process, you will all continue to be changed, to be transformed and in the end to be made into the Body of Christ
Naming Ceremony of Christ Church Gabriola April 15,2018
Right Reverend Dr. Logan McMenamie
Before a great journey, God renames the ones who are called:
Jacob became Israel;
Sara became Sarah;
Abram became Abraham;
Saul became Paul.
The name gives direction, calling and reflects identity.
In the end, as we walk our sacred journey
a new rhythm will appear in our heart;
a drumbeat that will slowly move us to step out
and into the circle of life, to be
closer to our sisters and brothers, to pass beneath our ancestors
in the land of spirits until we see the vision God has intended for us
and learn our new name as God’s people.
Adapted from Steven Charleston’s, ‘The Four Vision Quests of Jesus.’
We join today as a diocese and presbytery to celebrate the new name, the new identity and the new calling which is reflected in this congregation of Christ Church Gabriola Island Shared Ministry.