An Open Letter To Non-Church-Goers

Guest writer

Dear Non-Church-Goer,

It has been too long since we talked.

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And, even when we have spoken in the past we have seldom really connected. I believe I bear a large portion of responsibility for our failure to communicate. I have hidden away in the isolated protective fortress I call “church” unable to truly meet you.  

So, let me begin with an apology.

I am sorry I have not listened to you. I am sorry I have been so often arrogant and offensive in our encounters. 

I regret that I have frequently presented myself as possessing the truth to which you must subscribe. It pains me that I have spoken primarily to pester you into agreeing with my view.

I am embarrassed by those times we have met and I have communicated that, in order to be a good person, you must join my little tribe of like-minded people.

I am grieved I have so often failed to see and affirm the beauty, goodness and light present in your life and in your loving relationships. It is humiliating to see how we in the church have failed to be people of healing, reconciliation and compassion while at the same time sitting in judgment on the way you live your life.

 I hope you can forgive my unwillingness to learn from you and the times I have been dismissive of the truth in your life, even while my church has been embroiled in internal battles over conflicting understandings of what is true.

I know it is asking a lot, but I ask from you the grace I have so often failed to embody in our relationship.

Before anything else Jesus taught his followers to love. Asked to sum up the core of his teaching, Jesus said simply, “You shall love…” (Matthew 22:37). I know I have often failed to live the values the church came into existence to embody.

At times it feels as if the only way for my church to return to living the challenge Jesus left us, might be for it to cease to exist. And, it may be that my community of faith needs to die.

But the movement we now call “church” was born in defeat and failure. It rose from the ashes of death.  The church exists to bear testimony to the possibility of a love that is not defeated by our failures.

No matter what form it takes, there will always be within the human community a testimony to the power of goodness and love for those with eyes to see.

I still experience in the gathering of people with whom I share my faith, enough goodness and light to cherish the hope that the church may come to embody more fully those values of compassion and truth we exist to nurture. But, I believe that, in order for us to fulfill our true vision, we need your help. We need to listen to you. We need to learn together how we might live in new and healing ways for the good of all creation.

We cannot afford to sit on opposite sides of a dividing wall throwing verbal volleys across the distance that seems to separate us.

We must come out from behind our defensive fortress and open our hearts to one another.

I hope we might soon be able to meet on the common ground of our humanity and learn to share, in ways that are life-giving for all creation, this small space that is our common home.

Christopher PageChristopher Page is the rector of St. Philip Anglican Church in Oak Bay in the Anglican Diocese of B.C. He writes regularly at: www.inaspaciousplace.wordpress.com

You can read more articles from our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking HERE

*This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday June 6 2016

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