Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Recession, singing and being church

It's been good to have anonymous as a dialogue partner. Really got the grey matter going. And hopefully, the thinking will lead to action.

The recession adds a whole new dimension to this discussion, as anonymous suggests by way of a tangent (the whole comment on the last post repays careful reading). I do have all sorts of fears that cash will drain away from much of the good work that is being supported by Christians as they tighten their belts and that Christians might become more self-absorbed as they see their incomes falling.

But I think the recession - we can use that word now as the governor of the Bank of England used it last night(!) - does afford us an opportunity to assess our values as individuals and communities. We will suffer mild discomfort as bills rise - though already food and fuel costs are coming off the peaks they hit in the summer - but the poor around the world will suffer greatly.

The difficulty with recessions is that they are so uneven in their impact on people. Some sail through them relatively unscathed and others find their lives shattered by them. And often those people can live on the same streets, exercise in the same gym, shop in the same malls. My prayer is that our eyes are opened to see how people are being affected.

One of the interesting features of this recession, however, is that it could affect the middle class in the south much more severely than others - unlike the downturns in the early 1980s and 1990s. It is people working in financial services - and those trades dependent on them in London - and those who've relied on debt, especially tied up in property, to fuel their lifestyle who are at the eye of this storm. And these people are my neighbours.

Inevitably, as they are affected, there will be knock-ons in the wider economy affecting other sectors. But we have such a tiny manufacturing sector these days that it's unlikely we'll be seeing factory closures on the scale we saw in the 1980s.

So it's maybe not a time to focus on singing but on sharing, on being honest about how we're doing and how we can support one another and those who could well be in need around us. In short, we have an opportunity to be church in a significantly deeper, more Christ-focused way.

Of course, some would say that a sing-song in a crisis is just the medicine we need, but I'm not sure I want to go there...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's funny how my relatively flippant comment about that dear chap Graham Kendrick has got us both thinking.

Somehow the last few posts have crystallised my thoughts about why I am so against the glossy, hands-in-the-air, music group, powerpoint version of church. Is it better to have a church that's full of people singing their heart out and feeling good about themselves, or is it better to have a church that's half empty, but thoroughly committed to getting involved with their community - in all its complicated mess?

I think religion in this country has been a tremendous source of good. Old fashioned values, a true love of neighbours and a deep concern for the moral standing of the nation. That perhaps has been exemplified in people like The Queen and Dr Barnardo and Sue Ryder. These people have turned their faith into real and tangible action.

Having gone through various types of church - the happy-clappy hysteria of the 1980s to a calmer, but smugger version of the 1990s - it breaks my heart that many regular church-going christians today are more concerned with touchy-feely stuff rather than actually putting themselves on the line for others.

I'm not saying there's no place for worship. Far from it. But the exuberant excesses and inward facing introspection encouraged by church leaders over the years has hidden the nasty reality of the world from the cosy coterie of the church.

I have heard the arguments about good works not getting you to heaven. I know the verses of the Bible about there being only one way into heaven.

But while you're singing and praising remember there are people with such hurt in their lives that they barely function.

There are people who are living with the blackness of depression, the despair of poverty and long, unremitting loneliness. People who's hearts are broken with bereavement, living lives in shame and sadness and those whose world on the outside is great, but inside they have to face their dark side daily.

The recession is going to hurt many people. We are going to question everything we once held dear. Marriages and relationships will bend, buckle and break and people will go hungry and homeless.

Perhaps I'm being deliberatly awkward, but my question is simple.

Is a good old praise and worship session, followed by a time of open prayer and a sermon concentrating on a small aspect of theology going to make one jot of difference to those folks on the outside?

Or is it just like the band on the Titanic that played songs while the ship sank with the senseless loss of so many lives?

Rumour had it that the last song they played was Nearer my God to thee.