Home group notes - By Christine Bailey
The Church God’s new community No. 2
(Here are some warm-up questions to get the subject aired. There are no right or wrong answers!)
What clubs/ organisations/ groups do you belong to?
What do you ‘get out of’ your club?
Or are you not a ‘joiner’? If not, can you describe why?
What’s the difference between your club/society/organisation and your immediate neighbourhood, where you live?
How many of your fellow club members or neighbours would you call friends? Are you comfortable with your answer?
What ‘works’ for you when it comes to good neighbourliness? How do you feel about the new housing estate that was Parsons Mead?
The Bible readings: Acts 2: 41-47 and Heb 10.19-25. (Read these aloud within the group).
In our current studies, we are looking at various aspects of the Christian Church, and our parish’s version, St. Giles’ and St. George’s.
The Church, as we all know, is the people, not the building, -obviously so this week, as we look at ourselves as a community.
Jesus’ followers, -the ones he left behind, and trusted to carry on his work, -began as a small, Jewish sect. As the Good News spread, the membership both grew in numbers and expanded in inclusivity, reflecting Jesus’ own ministry to a much wider group of people than just Jewish men. He included and respected gentiles, women, the poor, the disabled, children etc. John’s Gospel records that on the night before he died, Jesus’ made a last great statement on how his followers should continue their discipleship:
· They were to follow his example of servant-hood, (washing their feet)
· And were commanded, -not asked, advised, or requested, -to love one another.
Within 50 days, they became a cohesive ‘community’ with the following characteristics:
- they met together to devote themselves to the Apostles’ teaching; to share fellowship; to break bread together and to pray
- they had everything in common, sharing their resources
- they met daily in the Temple as well as in each others’ homes
- they ate together, with glad and sincere hearts (sounds like a party!)
- they praised God
- they enjoyed the favour of all the people
- they were an ever-increasing group.
How much of a risk was it for Jesus to leave behind 11 men to continue his work?
What was it that held the group together and made it work? (Some suggestions: the Holy Spirit; their love for Jesus; their experience of him, etc)
Looking at the above list of characteristics of this new ‘Church’;
Why are these things picked out for mention?
What are the equivalents/parallels in today’s Church?
Let’s bring together everything we’ve thought about so far, and start to unpick what ‘community’ means in relation to the Church.
How was it ‘new’? (Suggestions:
· focussed specifically on Jesus;
· committed to meeting together regularly;
· the new ‘Apostles’ teaching’, ie what would be the basis for the New Testament, was being added to their pre-existing Scriptures, [Old Testament];
· their new practice of breaking bread together in memory of Jesus
· their new commandment to love one another.)
What does ‘held all things in common’ mean, and how might it been demonstrated today? (Suggestions:
- had the same ideas? [Take care here to allow for freedom of thought and individual development in faith]
- had the same values? [perhaps more likely than ideas]
- shared material possessions [Very green!]
- shared wealth to eliminate poverty.
- Shared each others’ lives in genuine interest
- Mutually supportive, especially when in distress. Look back at the Hebrews passage.)
Verse Acts 2.17 states that they enjoyed the favour of all the people. Does this apply to us, in Ashtead?
How did they increase their numbers? (Suggestions: the Lord did the increasing. But does that excuse us from evangelist? How might we look to increase our numbers?, -should we?)
Community vs Individualism.
This whole description is strange to us. Community thinking is counter-cultural to us. We tend to be a society of individuals, taking and giving as individuals, on a voluntary basis.
But what if I am asked to sublimate my individuality for the sake of the community? To what extent can/should the community make claims on me as an individual? Some cultures, e,g, the Masai, decide things like faith, as a community, led by their elders!
Questions: (use whichever ones are appropriate for your group.)
Do I think of myself as an individual member of a group called The Church, or as part of a large organism, which can’t work fully without me, but of which I am not the king-pin with ‘rights’!?
Can I manage to swallow my individual wishes and give my full support to the majority preference? Would it mean I have to lose my true identity as an individual? How does a church differ from a democracy? (Suggestion: 1. We are following Christ and his Kingship in His Kingdom. 2. Whatever the majority preference, it must always care for the needs of the minority as well, especially if they are vulnerable. No-one should be powerless. The preference should be for the welfare of the ‘other’.)
Do I identify with the church in Ashtead and with some of its more challenging members? Am I one of those challenging members!?
Do we, as a church, have a communal voice at times? Do we ever pray with a communal voice of praise or lament? What experience do you have of ‘weeping with those who weep’?
How are we going to find our communal voice? What do we already do in this vein? What would you like to see us doing in the future?
Discuss the way the Church might be the living embodiment or relationship and intimacy with God, based on the concept of the ‘Community’ of the Trinity.
Is our own church a community I can trust? If not, what part am I playing in that distrust? How can we keep company with each other in an atmosphere of trust?
As we draw to a conclusion……………
One…because God is one and the Holy Spirit holds us together
Holy…because Jesus is holy and has called us to himself
Catholic… because all we offer is applicable to everyone
Apostolic…because we follow the footsteps, teaching and tradition of the Apostles
Does your picture of the Church fit with this one taken from Archbishop Rowan Williams’ book, Tokens of Trust:
“We can trust the Church because it is a community of active peace-making and peace-keeping where no-one exists in isolation or grows up in isolation or suffers in isolation. ….. The Church is the community of those who have been “immersed” in Jesus’ life, overwhelmed by it”
And finally……. Let’s finish by talking about all the ways in which the Church here in Ashtead, has been a blessing to us; and ways in which we, as members of that Church, have had the joy of blessing others.