THE GATHERING of God’s people in worship is at the heart of the church’s life.
Week by week we are drawn together to be fed by word and sacrament and sent out into the body of the world to share the
hope and love of God with others.
This is how the Basis of Union describes it: “The Congregation is the embodiment in one place of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, worshipping, witnessing and serving as a fellowship of the Spirit in Christ.
Its members meet regularly to hear God’s Word, to celebrate the sacraments, to build one another up in love, to share in the wider responsibilities of the Church, and to serve the world.”
Despite this understandingof the church the term “church” is understood in many ways, and unfortunately, often this is
not in a positive light.
The word “church” can be used to describe a building, an institution, the worship service, or even a group of people and it carries with it all sorts of baggage.
As one of my neighbours pointed out to me recently the “church” has a massive PR problem!
Unfortunately, we cannot simply get rid of the term or dismiss it as easily as some seem to want to, as if that will make a
relationship with Jesus somehow more attractive.
True empowerment comes not from discarding words but from teaching new meaning and helping people to look from
One perspective which can be helpful is to consider that the original meaning of the word which came from the Greek.
The word ecclesia denoted a gathering of people.
So in a Christian sense the ecclesia is God’s people gathered together.
This might be understood as occurring at a spiritual level when we are drawn into God’s life through Christ and in the Spirit.
Paul continually makes references to our lives in God, the spirit making us one and so on.
This understanding emphasises that the journey of Jesus’ followers is not a solitary one but one which occurs in and with
This is one reason why coming together in worship is so important in our world which is so highly individualistic.
It also raises questions about how idiosyncratic worship services should be.
If we are drawn into God’s life together, structuring worship to specifically meet the desires of a particular interest group can rub against the grain of God’s inclusive love.
On the other hand the gathering of God’s people should not denude the fact that each of us has a personal relationship
God creates us and calls us in our uniqueness and particularity.
What was so amazing on the day of Pentecost was that people spoke their own language and others understood.
The uniqueness of individuals was held in tension with the bond of understanding in the power of the Spirit.
It was this inspired setting which has traditionally been seen as the birthplace for the church.
And it was from this setting that those earliest of Christians were sent into the world to share the message of Jesus.
Whilst the word “church” has all sorts of baggage, I think it is important not to lose sight of the definition of the people of God gathered together.
It is in our constant gathering that we are reminded that we are baptised not only into Christ but into the body of Christ, the
church, and it is in this setting that we are formed for our life in the world.
The gathering on Sunday, the worship or liturgical life of the church, should orient us towards God as well as God’s promises for the whole creation.
This means that going to church should lead us to being the church in our everyday existence: the heartbeat.
Photo : Members of the Charters Towers Uniting Church community. Photo courtesy of Phil Smith