We’re republishing a series of ‘open letters’ that Revd Zoe Heming wrote some years back, during her curacy, for her church’s parish magazine - to “Dear Dementia,” “Dear Carers,” “Dear Younger-self,” “Dear Church,”...
I am writing to you, The Church, as the whole - the mysteriously many-faced - of all shapes, sizes, styles and persuasions - ‘Body of Christ’ church, which somehow (not always very well) hangs together. Like all the many millions who would call themselves Christians (and we are very mixed bunch!), I fit somewhere in this body... but let’s face it, your body language can be a bit hard to read at times…
I read in our shared holy book that
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Apart from those few richest who’ve got richer, there are many more people finding themselves living in poverty...
“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.” Billions of parents skip meals (yes, even now in the UK) so their children can eat...
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” There are fewer people living un-scathed from the things which isolate us from our communities, let alone the turmoils we see on the news lately…
Given that this is your book, we who gather on Sundays are looking to you to make sense of this upside-down way to experience the world. When Jesus said these words to the people following him, he didn’t add the clause ‘One day…’ or ‘in the future’. So presumably, these statements are for the present for us, as well as for those he said it to face-to-face? This does fit well with all the other things about the Christian faith which are the reversal of the rules in the ‘dog-eat-dog / rat-race’ world we live in. I love that about you!
In our self-destructive world, we need this sort of radical reclaiming of the common ground - communities pulling together and not apart, love being stronger than fear, hope and laughter even in the darkest times and places.
As less of us are born into the traditions of church attendance, it’s so beautiful to see something deeper and more captivating emerging from the fringes, joining those who have held on to you when many have walked away. You Body is changing (as all bodies do with time) and is beginning to be a more natural, sacred space for those who find themselves poor, hungry or weeping.
In days gone by, when we were seduced into trying to throw off weakness as something disabling, rather than our strength, you (we) lost our way and became like an oil-tanker set on an immovable course to where we’d rather go. It’s not without humour then that now the sails are trimmed, we can navigate much more freely on a different setting, confident that we are indeed a ‘ship of fools’.
In my own weakness, you’ve become my home and, like many other, I am beginning to understand that I don’t have to be the answer to my own prayers, or all things to all people.
I am one of many, only ever called to play my part. What a relief! The funny, clever words of a marvellous Anglican, Margaret Mead, hit the nail on the head: ‘Always remember, you are absolutely unique. Just like the rest of us.’
So sticking with the nautical analogy (although I’m spoilt for choice), I’m so happy to be on board and live to invite fellow traveller to set sail to where the Spirit of God takes us together. I love that my weakness is part of your strength and, as we fling open your doors again (and put in better ramps!) to welcome other ‘fools’ aboard, we can be braver together in the knowledge that even in the storms we face, God still says to us:
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” (Isaiah 43:2)
So, through calm seas and storms, today and in the unknown days to come, mourners, the meek, the hungry, the poor in spirit alike become ‘the pure in heart, and see God’...in you and what your body language is beginning to show us as we change together. If only we are brave enough to look.