Faith

Faith is never easy to describe because it is essentially about a relationship with something beyond our comprehension. It is something to be experienced rather than just learnt. And this comes through participation.

 

As a parish we have tried to sum up our understanding of what we are about with a Vision Statement:

We aspire to be
an open and welcoming church
engaging with the wider community
fostering faith and friendship
and bringing people of all ages together
for the glory of God.

 

Our central conviction is that faith goes hand-in-hand with friendship. The one is fostered and enhanced by the other. There is always a communal aspect to faith, no matter how intense the personal experience.

 

Another way of summing this up is by thinking about faith as involving 3 ‘B’s’:
 

  • Believing
  • Behaving
  • Belonging

 

Below is simple ‘Guide to Christianity’, using the 3 B’s, written by John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford:

Christianity is about BELIEVING

GOD AS CREATOR/FATHER

God is the creator and sustainer of everything that exists. God’s character is best described as ‘love’, and God’s passions are for peace, justice and joy for everyone. God is always ‘more’ – in scale, love, energy, presence – than we ever imagine. Language breaks down; our descriptions have to become metaphors. It’s like Hamlet trying to describe Shakespeare. But in order to explain what God is like, God took a huge risk…

GOD AS SON/JESUS

It’s been said, ‘God is Christlike, and in him is no unChristlikeness at all.’ If we want to understand what God is like, what God would say and do, we have only to look at this extraordinary life, the pivot on which history has turned.

  • The breath-taking teaching of Jesus has never been faulted and has been the foundation of civilisations.
  • The death of Jesus on Good Friday released humankind from the dark tyrannies of moral failure and the fears that cripple our lives.
  • The resurrection of Jesus on Easter Day showed us that no situation is beyond hope, and that death does not have the final word.

GOD AS GO-BETWEEN/SPIRIT

If we can know God as Father in creation and as Son in history, how can we know God as the One who is present in our lives today? The answer is we can know him in the Spirit of God. The Spirit was released at Pentecost so that the love and grace of Jesus Christ could flow through his people into the world. Human transformation and social transformation are equally part of the new creation, the Kingdom of God, which Jesus came to announce and to demonstrate.

God is the Father we always needed, the Friend we always wanted, and the Energiser we always hoped for.

Christianity is about BEHAVING

Christians think that believing certain things about God has implications for how they behave towards others and the world they live in. They call it ‘daily discipleship’. It means asking certain questions in the midst of the rough and tumble of ordinary living:

  • Where is God at work in this situation?
  • What’s the Christ-like thing to do here?
  • How is the Holy Spirit nudging me?

Being a day-to-day disciple will affect everything. It affects how we handle:

  • Time: am I keeping a healthy balance between work and leisure, family and hobbies, my own interests and service to others?
  • Relationships: am I working to deepen my relationships? Or to heal them? Am I open, trusting and forgiving? Am I kind?
  • Sex: do I honour the dignity of the opposite sex? Am I obsessive? Am I gracious and appreciative? Do I avoid stereotypes?
  • Politics: do I apply a Christian mind to my political beliefs or just vote with my political tribe? What key Christian ideas influence my political thinking?
  • Community: how am I committed to the flourishing of my community? What are the needs of my locality that my abilities might match? Have I ever volunteered?
  • Money: do I handle my money as if everything I have is mine, or as if everything I have is God’s? Am I generous? Have I ever prayed about this?
  • Global need: am I committed, practically, to the needs of the poor and the sustaining of the environment? Am I a citizen of the world as I would like it to be?
  • And the rest!

Christianity is about BELONGING

THE CHURCH

Christians belong both to Christ (Christ-ians) and to one another. Together they make up the vast human family called the Church, which St Paul called ‘the Body of Christ’. The task of the  church is to continue the work Jesus began. To do that, Christ feeds his people through the Bible, prayer, and the sacraments.

THE BIBLE

The Bible is God’s love story – the story of God’s continuous pursuit of his wayward people. God has always longed to give people an abundant experience of life, and the Bible tells that story in many different ways – law, history, wisdom, poetry, prophecy, gospel, letters – written over more than 1000 years. This is God’s word for us and our word about God. It’s not ‘dictated’ but inspired (‘Godbreathed’). As such it’s the book above any other in history that has guided, moved, shaped and empowered both individuals and nations. Christians fail to read it at their peril!

PRAYER

Not a technique but a relationship, a friendship, which can take different forms:

  • Spending time reflectively with God – with thanks, with sorrow, with people on our heart
  • Chatting (arrow prayers) – talking (a quiet time) – intimacy (silence)
  • Offering the day to God at the start – practising the presence of God through the day – reviewing the day with God at night
  • Meditation – chewing the word of God slowly and prayerfully
  • Contemplation – silently looking, listening and just being

SACRAMENTS

These are God’s way of breaking through the limitations of words and giving us a direct encounter with the divine – ‘an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace’. Holy Communion is the most central action of the Church, representing for us the death and resurrection of Jesus so that we can share in the life he broke open for us. We come, empty handed, and are given Christ’s life in bread and wine. How can we not respond? When the worship ends, the service begins.

(text from ‘Christianity: A Simple Guide’ by John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford)

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Prayer

Living God,
daily you create the world, remake it,
and fill it with possibilities.
When it comes to faith,
help us to appreciate what we understand,
to enquire about what we don’t understand,
and to enjoy the journey in between,
for grace and truth have come together
to give us Life,
in Jesus Christ our Lord
Amen

John Pritchard

 

 

 

 

Download our Prayer Guide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further information

 

Articles

Being a Christian, Archbishop Rowan Williams, Church of England website

 

Books

You can get the following books from Amazon, your local Christian bookshop and from Waterstone’s:

 

  • Tokens of Trust, Rowan Williams (Canterbury, 2007)
  • Simply Christian, Tom Wright (SPCK, 2006)
  • What is the Point of Being a Christian?, Timothy Radcliffe (Burns and Oates, 2005)
  • A Generous Orthodoxy, Brian McLaren (Zondervan, 2004)
  • The Reason for God, Timothy Keller (Hodder, 2008)
  • How to Explain your Faith, John Pritchard (SPCK, 2006)

 

Useful websites

www.christianity.org.uk

(the Christian Enquiry Agency)

www.rejesus.co.uk

(lively, contemporary website)

www.churchofengland.org

(with lots of links)

www.sacredspace.ie

(daily prayer)