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What is church?

THE UNITING Church’s foundational document, the Basis of Union, states many different purposes of the church.

Some of these include: “preaching Christ the risen crucified One” (para 3); “to be a fellowship of reconciliation” (para 3); “be led to deeper commitment to the faith and service” (para 12); “order its life in response to God’s call to enter more fully into mission” (para 13); and “to serve those in need in the world” (para 14).

“The church’s call is to serve that end: to be a fellowship of reconciliation, a body within which the diverse gifts of its members are used for the building up of the whole, an instrument through which Christ may work and bear witness to himself” (para 3).

What a task!

In recent years many different expressions of church and worship have appeared.

For some people, being Christ in the community (providing a meal for a family in need for example) is an act of worship.

Michael Hewson said worship is celebrating God. “And church is the essential socialisation of that spiritual offering.”

Rev Heather Griffin said that church is the community of people who “love God a little and would like to love God more”.

“We are a community called to reflect the light of Christ wherever and in whatever circumstances we find ourselves,” she said. “Worship is the natural expression of our relationship with the One who is far beyond our capacity to comprehend.”

South Moreton Presbytery Children’s, Youth and Families Ministry Coordinator, Rev Wendi Sargeant, has written a thesis on this topic. In it she suggested the changing view of church is a reflection of changes in Australian society.

“Even a cursory glance at family life, media, education systems and information dissemination gives huge scope for discussion and the raising of issues for the institution that is the Church,” she said.

“The Church is not merely a group of people who follow the teachings of an ancient religious leader,” she said. “The emerging Church has a great opportunity to be the ‘new’ old way of being Church.

“This will take transformed action in our own context.

“Transformed action requires the kind of reflection, learning and consequent choices that Practical Theology offers.

“Now, more than ever, we need to educate people to reflect theologically about the Christian story.”