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Spinning on the axis
Coughs, sneezes, bugs and viruses must surely be on their way out? It's the turn of the year, in the sense of Winter gradually giving place to Spring, as is evident in the garden as daffodils force their way into the light. Alas the first yellow specimens, the aconites, have been left behind, or lost in transit, when I moved from Cambridge. They were a grand, heart-warming sight. But a new standard rose is planted here, in Hanwell, by courtesy of the Nursery who provided it, when their standard rose in Cambridge died. Another indicator of the way the calendar is progressing is that next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. © Aelred Arnesen
I have been reading a very interesting book called Presence: exploring profound change in people, organisations and society by Peter Senger, C.Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski & Betty Sue Flowers. It is a complex book, charting the progress that has been made in thinking through and realizing change in some of the largest organizations in the world. At root this change is not by a plan to be realized by any individual but, after actually seeing where one is in a situation, sensing something new and acting, not by imposing one's will, but acting in accordance with what that new knowledge dictates. For people in an organisation this way forward leads to new horizons, and old problems are left behind and resolved in a new approach never thought of before. Sounds like magic! But looked at sympathetically by those who feel themselves trapped in a situation where nothing can change because of in-built positions, it is the realisation of new life and a way forward in harmony with others.
What if the Christian Church should make such a move to look at where we are now in the 21st Century as a church. Much of the media coverage of Christianity is that it is gradually disappearing in the West. Of course we know that Christian faith cannot be quantified in such a manner and that there are vigorous congregations in many places. But suppose we stopped to see what we are seeing as Christians in the Western Church? That's important - not just to see the Church as it is but seeing what we are seeing. That's different. We often see what we want to see. We need, say the authors of this book, to let go the things we normally see, suspending them, as it were and then gradually being able to let the future 'come'. That sounds dangerous, but for Christians the 'future' is already present in Jesus the Lord. Our letting go of some precious traditions which may be hampering the forward movement of Christian life, either for ourselves or for a parish or for a region leads to letting the future (our life in Jesus) come to us. It's a vision, an expression of deep purposefulness upon which we need to act with a natural flow.The authors of this book met together for several years, finding inspiration from religious ways of life, particularly by a sort of retreat from a situation in order to reflect with the heart and allowing an 'inner knowing' to emerge. In the huge tasks facing multinational corporations they brought this knowing of the heart to resolving quite dangerous situations.
Perhaps this is a wake up call for us Christians. We have an ancient organisation in the church and while superficial changes have been made in recent years there are obviously areas where 'knowing from the heart', (not a vision imposed by an individual or a group), would unearth a new vision for the future, in theology as well as in practice. For example we have groupings of Christians who are at loggerheads with one another - a situation arising from history. We might reckon to make a start really to see what we are seeing in such a situation and to let it go so that the future might come - not simply in a resolution of old or present conflicts, but a vision of the truth in Jesus that is always coming to meet us. This is no easy, quick fix but the acceptance of a new vision which will emerge in time. Then there are the inherited traditions - of worship, of ministry. Going forward for change is often hampered by decisions that were taken in the past from quite reasonable motives but which now do not enable us to move forward into the necessary new vision required of us as worshippers, as disciples. We need the time and space and courage to let go and let the vision come and to be able to act upon it.
But hold on! Is the Christian Church absolutely quite different from any other organisation? Well, yes and no. Yes, it is based on the call of the divine Lord of all who, in being raised from death, is the Lord who is alive. No, not different, because this vision of the divine has to take place in our lives, seeing ourselves really as where we are in the history of peoples, as in any other grouping, by change that can be realized and shown and shared with others. It's a great challenge to see, to let go, to let come, and to change from the heart for the sake of the divine love!
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© Aelred Arnesen