Christianity for the Rest of Us by Dianne Butler Bass, Harper One 2006: Session 3

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We reviewed 3 further signposts of renewal in Mainline US Churches.

Diversity  The author suggests that congregations are all the ‘richer’ for their diversity of thought, background, ethnicity and (in the US particularly) politics.  With diversity of thought and action also comes a need for tolerance and acceptance of alternatives to one’s own preferences and praxis.  She makes the important point that diversity does not mean ‘inclusion’ ie that secularism has invaded the church in the form of ‘anything goes’.  Diversity was very real and evident in the early church and in the letters and teaching of Paul.  Diversity is something Christians do that makes a truer, richer community.

As a congregation with many ethnic backgrounds and traditions, Tawa Union Church can confirm the joys of diversity.

Justice  The author quotes one church as noting that they pursue diversity as a way of justice.  The ideals of fairness, equality and human rights arose from the secular world during the Enlightenment – and are not found in the Bible or in prior Christian tradition! Doing justice means engaging the powers – transforming systems of oppression.  This is why doing justice is so difficult – it requires us to change the basis, the ethics, the way things are done, the world view of ‘powers and principalities’ – not mopping up the consequences.  Its hands on stuff, requiring the marshalling of resources and above all, persistence.  We also recognised that there is likely to a personal ‘cost’.

Worship  This is subtitled ‘Experiencing God’ and for our group pretty well summarised the chapter.  Worship should create a sense of awe, an experience that transforms the heart.  It moves from head to heart.  Worship is the church’s shop window to the world.  The author found that the kind or form of music or art in themselves didn’t necessarily imply vitality, rather it was innovation and experimentation.  A number of examples are quoted.  A must read for those grown tired of same old, same old ways of experiencing worship.

Ian Harris

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