Each year as we recreate our Cloud of Witnesses at All Saints, I am asked some version of, ‘Does my saint need to be Christian?’ Many of us have had significant friendships or encounters with non-Christians which have deepened our Christian faith. So, do these people count as ‘saints’? The short answer is, Yes! For the longer answer, read on.
A Quaker vegan revolutionary abolitionist shows us how to live. A story for All Saints … thanks, Lucy.
Benjamin Lay was an early 18th century Quaker, and ‘a class-conscious, race-conscious, environmentally conscious ultraradical.’* If that’s not a big enough mouthful, he was more specifically a revolutionary abolitionist vegan with a disability (dwarfism) who boycotted all slave-produced commodities and lived in a cave.
Lindsay was a pillar of the church. He had been there for over fifty years, and was the longest-serving member. And he was a good and faithful servant. Every week, hours before anyone else arrived, he unlocked the building. He set out the chairs higgledy-piggledy, drew the curtains, and otherwise prepared for worship. Then someone else turned up and rearranged things just so.
Sanctuary has just turned 4! And so this week’s cartalk / tabletalk is going off lectionary as we reflect on how Sanctuary is a gift to the world: ‘salt’ and ‘light’ in Jesus’s terms. When we wondered about this during the service, people observed that Sanctuary is a place to be authentic, to be accepted, to be yourself. It’s a place to share the journey and nourish each other; it’s a place of protection and refuge; a place to be loved. And it’s a place with challenging Bible teaching! Continue reading “Cartalk / Tabletalk 11: Being a gift”
During shutdown, many of us long to gather like the first disciples “all together in one place”; but the Spirit of Pentecost pushed them, and pushes us, to reach far beyond the bounds of the gathering. (Listen.)
Did you feel the poignancy of that first line? ‘When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.’ How I long for us to be all together in one place, gathered into one body, singing, praying, and sharing bread and wine, food and drink, hugs and handshakes. But we cannot. Instead, we remain separate, compelled by the pandemic to huddle in our houses and maintain physical distance. The reality of being gathered all together in one place feels a long way away. Continue reading “Reaching beyond the gathered church”
This passage follows on from a long list of ancestors in the faith: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart … Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. (Hebrews 12:1-3, 12-13) Continue reading “#39: Cloud of witnesses”
In this time of global pandemic, closed borders, economic collapse, isolation, and loneliness, ordinary people like us are needed to do God’s priestly work. (Listen.)
It wasn’t Donald, as he boasted and blustered and bribed his way to the top. It wasn’t Vlad, with his iron fist and steely will and heart of stone. It wasn’t Boris, as he manipulated fear and stirred up trouble and tore people apart. And it wasn’t Scottie from marketing, with his smooth talking smugness at his own success. Instead, it was the one everyone forgot, the one rambling the hillsides, the one who stank of sheep. Continue reading “Not Donald, not Boris, but you and me”
One night in my late teens I found myself having a long, deep, 3am conversation with a friend of a friend I hadn’t met before. This young woman was in her mid-twenties and initially couldn’t get over the fact that I went to church (‘you’re religious?! re-huh-eeeallly?!’). For me, I had recently heard someone making the neat distinction between being ‘religious’ (bad, apparently) and ‘a follower of Jesus’ (good). So the poor other girl got more and more confused when, throughout our conversation, I kept repeating ‘oh no I’m not religious though … I just go to church and read the Bible and try to live how Jesus taught us to.’ You won’t be surprised to hear she and I never hung out again. Continue reading “Dodging the non-religion dogma”
Sitting in the dirty police cell we discussed what we would say. “Don’t admit anything,” the team leader said. “They can’t prove anything.” Three of us had been making our way north from Guangzhou to Xi’an distributing bible tracts that connected readers with the underground church. We would go out at night dressed in dark clothes and leave them all around rural villages and towns before moving on the next day. If travelling by bus, we would also drop the occasional tract out of the rear window since many people travelled on foot along the roads. This was how we were caught. Continue reading “Many doubts and scattered stones”
Last Thursday, we gathered for All Saints’ Day. We ate, sang and spoke of people in our ‘Cloud of Witnesses’ – those who have passed on and who have inspired us and our faith. Their names were added to the blackboard that stands over us year round, and those of us who wished to told a story about the soul whose name they had added. I had not attended this service before, and had not really understood what Alison had meant when she said it was a way for us to be reminded of and acquainted with death, and brought in community with our cloud of witnesses (that’s how I remember her explaining it anyway). I had thought that meant it was a kind of memorial, anniversary-like, and was okay with that. But sitting there, saying the prayers, singing the names, reading the people on the board and hearing the stories about them – it created an awareness for me that those who have died and we who are living are not ‘us’ and ‘them’: we are collectively the Body of Christ, and His Spirit is with us. Continue reading “A Revolutionary Abolitionist and our Cloud of Witnesses”