Monday, September 26, 2011

Could 'catholic' mean accessible?

Tomorrow the first meeting of the Diocese of Christchurch's Strategic Working Group will take place. Our role, in broad terms, is to think about the 'big picture' for the Diocese in this new 'post quake era.' Concurrently the Diocese is holding three consultations concerning what the people of the Diocese want to say about important values in respect of the guidelines which will shape designs for new and restored buildings.

Speaking again in broad terms, I sense a strong aspect of the voices speaking up at this time is engagement with the community around us: we want buildings that can serve our communities and ministries within those buildings which are outward looking. Another way to say this could be to talk about new futures for Anglican churches which enhance accessibility of our churches. Our gospel mission is not solely about how we can get people into our churches, but the fact is that once some kind of building exists as a church building there is always a question of whether people feel drawn past its doors or inhibited from approaching the doors - no matter how many signs are erected saying "All welcome."

In my own reflecting on these things I am wondering whether the term 'catholic' which lies at the heart of being Anglican is related to accessibility. If 'catholic' is about the universality of the church - what we believe and practice and whether it is the belief and practice of all, some or just a few - then 'catholic' intrinsically relates to accessibility. Can all, some or just a few access what the church offers in its gatherings?

But this - my musings continue - is more than a question of whether the doors to a church building are open or not or whether all people are welcome to come in to participate, it is also a question of whether what we do within the church building is accessible to whomever might enter. Our liturgies in the 21st century also need to be accessible.

Well, I will stop there, just before poking a stick in a hornet's nest!


Stephen Donald said...

Great Peter - Chch diocese has a big task ahead but to begin with an outward-looking Missional Church approach rather than present Attractional models(build it 'n' they'll come - if only we get our liturgy, programmes etc right) bodes well I reckon.

Yes - Allan Roxburgh spoke at our Waiapu clergy conference along with Wgtn & Waikato - don' agree with him on all counts, but he gives useful language to name the issues we face in the 'great unravelling' which Chch has suffered in dramatic physical as well as socio-cultural terms.

Accessibility, along with radical inclusivity sounds like the Church Catholic to me (see my response to Fr Ron's posting (5 Sept Auckland / Waiapu predictably protestant) This is an opportunity for Chch Anglicans, of whatever theological / liturgical flavour, to build on the goodwill of being good neighbours and lovers of God during the past year. Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui! Stephen in sunny Tolaga Bay

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Stephen.

We will see what happens!

Father Ron Smith said...

I'm not quite sure, Peter, where your reference to 'catholic' actually fits into the theme of your posting here.

Are you suggesting that what we offer in the church buildings in the new Christchurch needs to be geared to a 'common denominator' style of worship? If you are, then perhaps it needs to take into account what commonality we have, as Anglicans, to offer to those who might want to 'drop on' on us.

When I look around what has been offered across the board in our city, I detect some very different ways of worship - even among the churches of the diocese. We vary from 'happy clappy', through Bible Fellowship, to various celebrations of the Eucharistic Liturgy. Of these styles, I guess that the Celebration of the Eucharist might be correctly described as the more 'catholic' worship.

This worship style can be accessed by every Baptized person, whose spiritual regeneration has already qualified them to receive the Body and Blood of the Christ we worship, from which we are equipped to carry the light of Christ into the world.

If, however, you are categorising 'catholic' as freely accessible to all people - no matter what their formational background - then the 'happy-clappy' or Bible-Class style of worship might be more easily accessed by passers-by. This worship I would call 'eclectic' rather than 'catholic'.

OR, are you in any way suggesting that the new Cathedral should become a 'Temple for All People' regardless of their religious or spiritual aspirations? Just asking!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I understand that in raising this question I am raising the possibility of 'common denominator' worship and the danger of being very bland etc.

I am asking whether any style of worship ('catholic' or 'evangelical' or 'charismatic' or other) is as universally accessible as it could be. Again, each style can have its inaccessible aspects. I suppose my question is about minimising the inaccessible factors.

Then, in all such musings as an Anglican, there is the question of developing our Anglican identity: the least accessibility for Anglican worship to aim for is that Anglicans might be able to access it!

Pageantmaster said...

Over here in England, we hear a lot about removing the perceived barriers to people outside the church, knocking down the walls of churches and reaching out into society. Well, somewhat traumatically you have had that done for you. Perhaps it is an opportunity as well as a tragedy. Prayers for you as you seek to reach out into your communities. Perhaps you will have something to teach us about how to do it.