I have a confession… last week I went to Chorlton’s Big Green Festival (more like a village fete than a festival!) and was infected with the great atmosphere and reggae music. This infection, to drag out the metaphor, weakened my immune system’s ability to say no to the possibility of going to carry on dancing in Sheffield. I knew I was supposed to be in Church Sunday morning in Manchester, but I lied to myself and said that I would get up early.
I did in fact get up early, but not early enough to go back to Manchester. When I got up at 10 I got dressed in a rush and headed to the nearest steeple I could find! As it turns out, that steeple belongs to Endcliffe Methodist Church.
This was the first time I’ve been to a Methodist church since I was 11 and I have to say I was quite disappointed. The speaker was pretty aloof, even pompous, and his BBC English sounded very out-of-place in Sheffield. All the sermon was about God’s judgement and how Christians are better people, and that they should not care if they are judged by the world. There is some truth in this: we are called to be better people, but, as pride is a sin, we are also called to be humble people, which this speaker was not.
While researching this post, I found this hilarious video. I dread to think what this Youtuber, who thinks that a posh accent is satanic, would have thought of Endcliffe Methodist chapel!
I was quite surprised to find out that I don’t like the hymns of Charles Wesley either. Anglicans and Methodists alike sing his praises, which is apt for such a prolific hymn writer. But they weren’t to my taste it seems. The worship in Endcliffe was quite boring and the whole experience left me wondering what I was doing there. I met a really nice West Indian guy called “Q” afterwards and had a cup of tea and a chat with him, but I didn’t really feel comfortable as I was a newcomer and the only person under 50.
Interestingly enough, what I found more edifying was a conversation I had about this with some of my atheist friends afterwards. I said I believed in God, and they asked if I believed in a big man in the sky… at first I though it was a bit of a facepalm moment, and that no one believes in a man in the sky with a beard, but thinking about it I realized that it is in fact the fault of theists for not representing their beliefs accurately or persuasively enough. While people are often guilty of seeing God as a bigger, better reflection of themselves, this is not a theological view that is found in any modern Church (apart from possibly the Mormons). The root of God as bearded man in the sky probably comes from Medieval and Renaissance artwork, but this is expressing a metaphor rather than truth, otherwise those paintings would be idols. Thinking of God as a bearded man is anthropomorphic, patriarchal, and presents a massively limited view of God. Jesus taught that we are right to think of God as Father, and within his cultural context that had many different connotations; power and leadership are two of the most obvious, but I think they slightly miss the originality of the point that Jesus was making. When referring to God as ABBA, Father, Jesus was using a term of familiarity. Rather than stressing God’s role as the remote ruler of the Jewish people, Jesus stressed his involvement in the lives of his followers. Just as a child relies on and intimately knows and loves their parent, Christians should love, know and rely on God.
The low traffic this week has made me realize that, as Church is usually a once a week event, I will eventually start posting more theological reflections of the sort in the paragraph above, and reviews of any Christian or religious literature that I have found stirring.
If I don’t post in the meantime, have a great Easter, and celebrate the new creation God has brought about, defeating the powers-that-be through Christ! I am really looking forward to this week as it will be the first Holy Week I celebrate within a church. I’m still trying to work out what exactly I will be doing, but I’m sure this weekend is going to be packed with great events and services.
The Church Shopper
P.S. Don’t eat too much chocolate!