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MY FORMER COLLEAGUE Esther Foss and I were forever exchanging notes about books when we were working together, and it was and still is surprising that we often found ourselves, quite independently, “singing from the same hymn sheet”. The other day I wrote about the sense I have that churches need to “loosen their grip” a bit more, to “let go and let God” …

The fullness of the Life of God has been engaging with growth action planning since before Adam was a lad – and without a great deal of help from us whole new worlds are constantly springing into being. We’re caught up in the act of co-creating with God, of course, but we do well to remember that it takes us a while to catch up with the sheer energy of God; it takes us a while to reckon with the fact that the Holy Spirit’s gift is patently intended for EVERYBODY – inside and outside churches and other religious bodies; it takes us a while to reckon with the Spirit’s gifts in people we think decidedly unqualified. And therein lies the Source of my greatest comfort and consolation as a Christian disciple and a parish priest. The universe is buzzing anyway. And I’m not controlling it.

Buzzing | Simon Marsh

Esther and I share a common regard for the wonderful Quaker writer and teacher Parker J Palmer. Now working in different parishes, in different dioceses, and not having seen each other for a while, it was great to read a note from Esther this morning:

When the church gets it right, when she is true to her identity as Christ’s body on earth, it is always down to the Spirit. And when she gets it wrong – as she often does – it is because we – clergy and people – have fallen into the trap of trying to go it alone.

The Quaker writer Parker J. Palmer calls this “functional atheism… the belief that if anything decent is going to happen, we are the ones who must make it happen.” (Let your life speak p.88)

Esther Foss

The creative, creating Spirit of God is still at work, changing people’s lives, calling them out of the places of darkness into hitherto undreamed of glory and joy and light and service and fulness. Esther’s very well aware of that fact, as I am, but goes on …

… So why are our churches so often half empty, you might ask. Well, not to put too fine a point on it, God is not restricted to the church! And neither should we be. If we look at that reading from Acts we see that the apostles got out of the upper room and into the market place. And when we get out and look about we see that his Spirit is everywhere too.

I feel myself freshly commissioned: to look for and to celebrate the signs of God’s Spirit at work in the Church … and everywhere else as well.

8 thoughts on “FUNCTIONAL ATHEISM?

  1. Your writing is so exhilarating. it isn’t blind faith. You preach about Godliness in everyone and everything! beautiful :*

  2. “The universe is buzzing anyway. And I’m not controlling it.” these are among the most beautiful words I have heard issuing from a human tongue 🙂

  3. Thanks Ria. Life itself is beautiful isn’t it? We’re fortunate if something (writing, perhaps, or other encouragement to observation), or someone, teaches us to keep eyes, ears, hearts and minds open to it 🙂

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