Should the Church be more like a bramble?

This fourth-blog post has proved harder to write; indeed, I have skipped a week as I failed last week to finish a blog post I am still writing. Part of that has been finding it hard to change gear and start to make some positive sense of where I at least see church and what it might be amongst what still feels like awful lot of deconstruction and uncertainty. At least in the UK transitioning out of ‘lockdown’ to me feels harder than transitioning into it. It feels like we have an awfully tough recession ahead and the new ‘normal’ we find outselves in is very much not normal. At the same time I am trying to think through for myself what a more externally focussed less self-referencing church might look and feel like; and where a 21st century church might start therefore to look draw inspiration in the current contemporary cultural landscape… however more on that next week.

This week though an ode to the humble bramble and what the church can learn from it. At least in London we have now hit full blackberry picking session with plastic tubs clutched by those who know in the various parks, nooks and crannies that spring between the more manicured spaces. So here goes:

  1. Brambles occur despite human action; in fact, they often occur where humans vacate a place and leave it alone. It reminds me that God is at work despite ourselves, and it is the church’s role not to be God, rather to find where He is at work and join in with what He is doing.
  2. Brambles are messy, organic, unsightly, have hard thorns and basically can be said to lack elegance… perhaps the church at its best should have these qualities as well. If Covid-19 has taught us nothing else then the church is not about the beautiful buildings, even the music we sing together, and how we come together on a Sunday but it is very much amount the bigger more messy community that is built (good and bad).
  3. Brambles provide a brilliant protective eco-system for smaller animals and wildlife. They shelter and protect them from larger predators (including humans). Perhaps the church should play this role, rather than seeing itself for what it does itself, it should see success in a much wider way as to what it contributes to the ecosystem as a whole, what it protects and looks after… it should seek to be the yeast not the bread itself.
  4. Finally, brambles produce brilliant sweet fruit both for humans but also other wild life to feed off and does so freely and indiscriminately. Surely something for the church to think about as anti-dote to our increasingly curated and calibrated consumer orientated culture.

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