From chapter 5 of Church of the Isles – a prophetic strategy for renewal, by Ray Simpson. Published by Kevin Mayhew 2003.
‘See how these Christians love one another’ was a common saying in the first few centuries of the church. Since those times, those who wish to become members of the church have been required to accept a creed which states what they are to believe, but they have not been required to accept the Beatitudes (the beautiful attitudes commended by Jesus, Matthew 5: 1-12), which state how they are to relate. The emerging church puts the Beatitudes on a level with the creeds.
If the loving church is to replace the judgmental church, cells within the Body of Christ will have to learn new conditioned reflexes. Members of churches who visit Lindisfarne often ask, ‘How do we bring this about?’
They want to serve Jesus, but do not want to do this in churches that are dominated by committees, clerics and conventions. I advise them to exercise faith. That is, to act as if relationship is primary in every conversation, committee and circumstance.
One church encourages any member who had upset another to take them a love gift the following day.
Equality of regard has become an accept principle in our society. It was, for example, a building block of the 1998 Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement. The emerging church has to be a community where this principle is practised.
At the heart of the doctrine of God is a communion of loving selves. In a book entitled ‘Trinity for Atheists’ Italian theologian Bruno Forte describes the Trinity as ‘a communion of flowing relationships.’ We can only find our true identity as persons by reflecting this communion. As Charles Williams observed: it is as important to learn how we live from each other as how we are to live for each other.
In St Aidan’s ancient kingdom of Northumbria there are still people, like him, who model church as friendship. When Rev Catherine Hooper, who had parishes in the Gateshead area, was killed in a car crash in 1999 a neighbour told the Daily Telegraph: ‘It took her [Hooper] ages to walk to church because she was stopped by so many people along the way who wanted to talk to her. Before she came here very few people came to church, but afterwards it was always packed, especially with young people.’