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April 02, 2006

Recapturing faith

One thing the Christian faith needs to recapture, and recapture quickly, is the concept of a family centric faith and the inseparability of faith, work and worship. When we look about at Judaism and Islam we see faiths at work that are not centerd on worship or buildings or even necessarily on a book, but on the practice of that faith in everyday life and in every aspect of life.

Many years ago my mother worked for a Jewish owned company. The proprietors, Jewish emigre's from Eastern Europe and Germany, treated her, and the rest of our family as if we were a part of their family. We shared their celebrations and their tragedies, we went to the Synagogue at their invitation and we celebrated their Barmitzvahs. It has left me with a taste for Jewish food I will admit, and a knowledge of the laws of "Kosher" food, but most of all, it has left me with an impression of what faith in action can and should be! There does not have to be a Synagogue for a Jew to worship, he or she does so at home, with their family and in every aspect of their daily living. If there is no synagogue, it is a pity, but it is not a tragedy, it is an incovenience and it does not mean that worship ceases!

Christianity needs to rediscover this aspect, we need to re-establish the concept of worship as a family everytime we meet as a family. Look at the Jewish Shabat meal. It begins with the family gathered at the table, then the light is brought by the women of the house, prayers are said and the candles are lit. Once this is done the food is brought to the table, again by the women and the head of the household asks a blessing on the food and breaks the bread which is then shared among the participants. Once the main meal has been consumed, a cup of wine is poured and this is blessed by the boy nearest his Barmitzvah, and then shared among the table. The meal ends with another cup shared and the whole meal is an act of worship in itself. How many Christian households do this? I would suspect that, beyond saying "grace" to begin the meal, very few do more. Very few know that the whole is an act of worship once you add the prayers.

It is in the home too, and not just in the Church or the school that children in Jewish and Muslim households learn about their faith and about their holy books. Dare I suggest that, in many Christian households the Bible is something kept on a bookshelf unless one needs to look up a quotation or answer a question in a quiz, we simply do not teach it to our children - and we certainly don't discuss our faith in front of the children! Heaven forbid that we should influence them - or "brainwash" them as some of our "Educationists" term it - into believing that there might be a God or that Christianity might not be the cause of all the world's problems.

For Christianity, the problem really arose from the third century onwards as the faith came to be more and more a "ritual centric religion based on buildings and places" and so, for the vast majority of people became something divorced from the everyday. Yes, even the non-conformist churches fall into this trap, worship is too often based on a Sunday ritual of Church services followed by "Sunday" activities. And even the style and pattern of worship is a form of ritual - even where there is no "ritual", the mere fact of it's being set along certain lines makes it a ritual.

Recently I read an article by a Muslim scholar who described Christianity as being under the control of a "Priestly Caste". In a sense he is correct, yet, in the fullest meaning of the term "caste", he has it badly wrong. Our Priests are not selected by virtue of their having been born into a family of priests, far from it they are "called out of the congregation" to lead the faithful, yet, in many churches, this is the greatest stumbling block to the ministry of all the people. Its the priests job to pray, the rest of us only do it on a Sunday. In fact the vast majority of Christian Priest, Ministers or Presbyters are men and women who have heard a call from God, and undergone a rigorous selection process in order to be selected for training. They are certainly not "born to the job" and they come from all walks of life. But they are there to guide, to lead and to help us grow in faith, not to do it all for us!

Well, if we are serious about our faith, its time we changed the way we do it. The medieval concept of Church as something separate from the world of the mundane is no longer viable. Its time we brought our worship into our homes and centred faith, growth of the spirit and study of our beliefs on our homes and for every day, not just for Sunday. Church services and public worship have an important place, but it is in support of and not instead of, worship in our homes. Try it, you never know, you may find that it makes a huge difference to home and family!

Posted by The Gray Monk at April 2, 2006 01:33 PM

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