The name for this blog comes from the Hebrew word merchab. Merchab is a masculine noun that appears most often in the Psalms of the Hebrew Scriptures. It means a broad or roomy place, an expansive place, a wide place. Read more...

October 29, 2008

Pictorial Directory

At the church where I work, we are having a new pictorial directory made for our community. We seem to go through this cycle once every four years or so. There are many new faces in four years and some that are no longer with us. It is good to catch up and try to catch a fleeting portrait of who we are.

For the cover of our directory this year, Matthew Wolferstan has painted a beautiful watercolour of the church. Matthew's painting suggests a number of things about the Anglican Church of St. Philip.

Notice that the main doors of the church are open. We embrace within our community a wide variety of people. We desire to be a welcoming church. We do not all agree about absolutely everything. Sometimes we violently disagree. But there is space in our community for many ways of seeing the world. We do not demand that everyone understand every aspect of life in exactly the same way. We want to stay open to people who may understand things a little differently than we do. We value the discipline of sticking it out with people even when we do not see eye to eye. We don't have to be monochrome people in order to belong.

The only requirement to belong in this community is a heart that is open to Christ. You do not have to take a theology test, or even a morality test before you qualify to join us. You don't have to sign a statement of faith, or pledge allegiance to any standard other than your willingness to follow the Spirit of Christ in your life. If you desire to live with your heart open to the truth, light and wisdom of God in Jesus Christ, then you belong.

You will also notice in Matthew’s painting that a young family is entering the church. You often hear dire predictions of the imminent death of the Anglican Church. This is not our experience. Sunday by Sunday we experience the energy of a dynamic living community of people from infant to elderly. The love of God and the mercy of Christ create among us an empowering body of love and faith that sheds the light of Christ throughout the world.

Finally, Matthew has included in his painting the large spruce tree that stands to the North of the church. This tree has seen some difficult days. Regularly, hydro crews cut limbs off this tree to make room for the power lines. Yet in spite of the loss of these limbs our tree grows strong and healthy towering above the church building.

In any community there are times when limbs fall off. In a transient culture of consumer religion, it can be tempting to walk away from a community in an attempt to find one that feels more comfortable. Sometimes it may be essential for a limb to be separated and the tree as a whole feels the pain of every loss. But, the tree continues to grow. The trunk is straight, sap runs strong beneath the bark and the branches bear needles and pinecones.

When a church makes a pictorial directory, inevitably many faces from the last directory, will not appear in the new version. Some people have died, others have become angry about their perception of the direction of the church, some have moved from the city, others have just drifted away. But the church remains strong. We are a community of love and fellowship. We minister to and care for one another and for the world. There is light here. There is hope here. The love of God in Christ Jesus is in our midst.

The world we live in is a desperately broken place. Everywhere you look, you can find groups of people splintering into smaller, more tightly defined and narrowly based special interest groups. People seem to be able to hold together in groups only as long as they find agreement among themselves. The world desperately needs to see that it is possible for people to look past superficial differences and to discover their identity in the deeper reality of Christ. We can be that community of faithfulness, mutual respect and trust.

I give thanks to God for every person in the church community to which I am privileged to belong and I pray God’s continued blessing upon us as we journey on together.


Rob Holloway said...

A pictorial directory is more than just a moment in time of a community. It allows you to identify who is part of a family , to see changes, to understand the parts that make the whole.
To use it like a GPS as in, so that is where they live. Ah, they can smile and their dog / baby look so much like them.
File them and over the years you have a manual lookup of the whole community , as time marches on.
Such beauty,a reminder from Christ , this is my flock.


Thank you Rob. This is a truly lovely comment. I believe what you have seen here flows directly from the faithfulness and steadiness you and your immeidate family have consistnetly practiced over all these years as reliable and supportive members of one community. Bless you, Christopher