Presbytery Planning is occupying much of my attention and focus just now as The Presbytery of Glasgow seeks to reduce the number of ministry posts as instructed by the General Assembly. In our area, Zone 3, the reduction will amount to a move from 22 to 10.5 posts. Each Zone is forming clusters of congregations who will work together to agree the required reductions. During May and June our Kirk Session will have numerous meetings with Cadder and Kenmure Churches and a Facilitator appointed by Presbytery to help our cluster of Cadder, Kenmure and Springfield Cambridge work through this process. Currently Kenmure is without a Minister and has not been granted permission to call, and so we have to devise a plan for the next five years of how best we can provide ministry to our 3 congregations and parishes with 2 Ministers. Naturally this is creating a sense of anxiety and concern for many.
A while ago I went to the cinema to see the film Belfast set in Northern Ireland in 1969. Buddy a nine year old Protestant boy has a crush on a Roman Catholic classmate. He asks his father if he could have a future with her, and his father replies, “That wee girl can be a practicing Hindu, or Southern Baptist, or vegetarian Anti-Christ. But if she’s kind, and fair, and you two respect each other, she and her people are welcome in her house.”
Love and grace win the day, if not the war. This father’s ethos of welcome strikes me as deeply Christian. I like to think that such qualities will be found in the midst of this Presbytery planning process. Of course I have been around the Kirk long enough, and seen previous iterations of Presbytery plans to know that this is not always the case. But, for my part, I am trying to remind myself of the need to let love and grace win the day. They are like guard rails of our faith.
In Belfast, the father doesn’t simply say that everyone is welcome. He says they are welcome if they are kind and fair and respect others. That’s a big if. Isn’t the whole point of grace that Christ’s love extends to those who are neither kind, nor fair, nor respectful? I need something apart from my own goodness to be the basis for my welcome in Christ’s Church?
And so it goes on. We will always wrestle with these questions, because we will always encounter and love people in Presbytery planning, in life in general who don’t fit into our boxes. But then I recall that the heart of Christianity is never what we do; it is what God does. The community of God’s people doesn’t spring from our activity; it comes from God. As long as we err on the side of love and stay open to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we follow the commandment Jesus gave the community formed in his name: to love one another, so people will know we are his disciples. May it be so for me and for you.