It’s been an interesting few days … and I seem to be making endless excuses for not blogging as regularly as I used to or would like to. I guess part of this is that mission, as I see it, that is: getting alongside people and listening and attempting to be an expression of God’s love in a variety of circumstances sounds grand …. but actually it is just me being me and listening, and sometimes responding, to people in a way that it is helpful to them.
In my reflections today I have been thinking more on inculturation. I believe if my faith is to be meaningful today then it has to relate in a significant and authentic way with my culture. The new developing community of people who call ourselves the gathering speak of our faith informing our experience of the world and our experience of the world informing our faith. This is both serious and important to us. A faith that cannot relate to my world is irrelevant.
Different cultures express themselves and faith differently. God, to be God, must be God of all cultures. If that is true, and I believe it is, then it is clear that faith and the living out of that faith will feel and look very different in different cultures. I think it then follows that lifestyles will be different depending upon how those different cultures interpret and are able to express their faith.
A long while ago I remember coming across the Christ we Share pack. The pack illustrates how Christ has been depicted in art in different cultures. Some of the pictures are challenging to our stereotypes of what Christ must have been like. These pictures are, however, an illustration showing how different cultures understand and relate to the Christ figure. Christ, like faith, needs to be in the prevalent culture to be both noticed and relevant.
If people are going to travel their journey of faith with integrity, then there is a requirement for that journey to be understandable within that culture. It makes sense that the same faith can look very different dependent upon the culture that faith expression is sitting within. In the past such stuff have caused concern – but if God is God of all (and if God isn’t then God can’t be God!) then this diversity should be welcomed and embraced.
As we seek to travel together in the gathering we long to travel in a way that embraces, welcomes and cherishes the culture(s) around us. There are loads of groups/churches/organisations/collectives that exist together because they agree about everything. I believe the love of God within creation really flourishes in groups of people that choose to travel together despite not agreeing on everything because they acknowledge that we all bring something unique and valid. I hope that is what the gathering becomes.