Bromham is a lively, healthy church with a fine minister in Mark Hatto, and it was a pleasure to be with them. I enjoyed mealtimes, meeting with people and hearing their stories. And I enjoyed the overall sense of church being relaxed together, whether it was in the main sessions or the betwee times. People shared testimony on Sunday morning, and while in my experience this can be a mixed blessing, on this occasion is was meaningful and moving. There was an optional session on 'Godly Play', which I have blogged about on CBA Ministers – if you haven't encountered this concept it's well worth checking out. And a pampering room was made available offering foot spas, facials and the like, which was very popular. I didn't make this either!
The focus of the weekend was 'What is Church?' and as I spoke about 'the Church', I looked at a number of images. In one session I drew on Ronald Rolheiser, a North American Catholic priest, teacher and writer, who is a regular columnist on the Catholic Herald. For many years I've been struck with his emphasis upon the necessity to be real about the Church. He speaks with passion about what he terms, 'the confronted life'. His concern, and mine, is that the Christian life doesn't become a fantasy that I can share with a few well-chosen, like-minded individuals. He says, 'Few things stretch the heart as painfully as does church community. Conversely when we avoid the pain and mess of [church] encounter to walk a less painful private road or to gather with only persons of our own kind, the heart need not and generally does not stretch. Going to church is one of the better cardio-vascular spiritual exercises available.'
Rather than make this a long post, I'll share some other comments later.