Perhaps I started in the wrong place. My previous post proposed the importance of speaking the language of faith “out there” — beyond the relative security provided by the walls of a church building. I believe I inadvertently skipped a step. I assumed Christians (of the “Mainline” variety) are actually fluent in the grammar of faith. I assumed the reticence to “speak a word” on behalf of the Gospel resulted from a lack of courage or commitment. I now believe those assumptions were probably mistaken.
What if the real reason we speak so tentatively (if at all) about our faith is simply because we haven’t learned the vocabulary? What if we don’t talk because we don’t know what to say? Or how to say it?
What if, instead of being ashamed of our linguistic awkwardness, we began to think of our parish communities as “language immersion classes”? What if we began to speak (however tentatively!) the foreign language of faith, hope and love with our fellow parishioners? What if we began to experiment with “speaking Christian” in our congregations? What if we actually began to take the risk of talking about how we see God at work in our lives? After all, as “church folks” aren’t we assuming our fellow congregants are at least vaguely sympathetic to such conversations?
As I thought about these questions, I began to reflect upon the noticeable absence of overt “God-talk” in my day to day life as a priest. My life is lived, for the most part, INSIDE the walls of a church building! Meeting after meeting. Phone call after phone call. Newsletter after newsletter. E-mail after e-mail. Task after task. Liturgical season after liturgical season. Parish activity after parish activity.
Within the life of a congregation, all sorts of stuff gets done (Thanks be to God!). But…do we ever take the time to offer such good work to God? If there’s any place left where it should be safe for Christians to “speak Christian”, it should be the local parish community.
And yet…I wonder. I wonder what would happen if we took the risk to talk about God within our parishes (yes, with one another!)? Would we learn to apply the lessons of more quickly? Would we be better attuned to seeing the work of God in the world? Would we be better able to articulate the hope for the faith that is within us?
I honestly don’t know what the results would be if we Episcopal “church folk” suddenly began to speak overtly about prayers answered, needs met, hungers fed, illnesses healed and new life received. Who knows how the Holy Spirit would move next? I certainly don’t know the answer to such a question. But I’m waiting to find it! What about you?