From Rev Andrew Smith
Presbytery Minister - Congregation Futures
Telling and hearing stories about a time when you clearly saw God at work in congregations, faith communities and agencies across our Presbytery is going to make for incredibly enriching conversations at the first of our Presbytery gatherings this year as an important kick off to our Presbytery mission planning throughout 2022.
As we retell these stories, we remember what God has done in the biblical narrative and in the recognised history of local churches and organisations. By doing so, we recognise God’s hand in the church’s narrative and amongst the congregations, faith communities and agencies. The emphasis is not on what the church is doing and has to offer but rather on what God has been doing amongst us all along.
Imagine yourself as part of this gathering where you have heard inspiring stories of God at work among us through the history of this Presbytery. Against that wonderful backdrop of stories, we are going to have the opportunity to find Biblical narratives that resonate with what you have heard.
“[Finding such Biblical narratives] is neither a literal nor historically critical way of approaching Scripture”, says Mann and Rendle in Holy Conversations, rather “the exercise is metaphorical play – but deeply spiritual play that can instruct us in new ways … The usefulness of a metaphor for rereading our own context is that it is not claimed as a one-on-one match to reality … rather, a metaphor proceeds by having only an odd, playful, and ill-fitting match to its reality, the purpose of which is to illuminate and evoke dimensions of reality that will otherwise go unnoticed and therefore unexperienced”.
The GRACE faith community of our Presbytery has engaged in this kind of spiritual play to find a Biblical narrative that resonates with their story. Here is how they speak of themselves, using the account about Jesus in Luke 5:17-26.
“Through the narrative of the man on the mat found in chapter 5 of Luke’s gospel, we reflect that the man on the mat had a history, a story, that had him stuck on the mat. That man needed friends, in fact a whole community of people, to pick him up and get him in front of Jesus. We don’t know what his friends were expecting from this encounter. They don’t ask Jesus for anything in particular. We just know they felt it was important to get him in the same room as Jesus and trust what would happen.
However, when they got to the building where Jesus was, the building was full of religious people blocking the way. There was no room for the man on the mat. So, the friends decided to think creatively – instead of coming in politely through the front door they cut a hole in the roof and lowered the man in.
We at Grace acknowledge that all of us are the man on the mat. All of us have a story, a history, that can leave us feeling stuck and helpless and in need of a community. All of us are the friends, taking turns at carrying whoever is most weighed down by their mat at the present time and breaking through any barriers we find on the way. And all of us are the religious people, comfortable with our community, and blocking the way for others to encounter Jesus. Sometimes, we acknowledge, it is our turn to get out of the way.
But all of us, are the man on the mat, who Jesus tells to stand up, pick up our story, and carry it with us so that others might see what Jesus has done for us.”
I look forward to hearing stories from you at our first Presbytery gathering this year about a time when you clearly saw God at work in congregations, faith communities and agencies across our Presbytery. I’m also keen to be part of the spiritual play in finding Biblical narratives that resonate with those stories.
The dates for these Presbytery gatherings align with the Presbytery meetings. They will be the first of half of the Saturdays on 19 March, 21 May, 20 August, and 19 November, starting at 10am. You will be very welcome to stick around for the business work of the Presbytery in the afternoons, but mostly we would really value your participation in the first half of the days.
These gatherings will be open for all to attend who are keen to be part of contributing to aspirations for the future life and witness of congregations, faith communities and agencies across our Presbytery as we seek a fuller participation in Christ’s mission in the world.