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Visions of Glory, Visions of Glory: Church

...Firstly, he formed a number of house churches which used to meet in the parish during the week. Secondly, the life generated by these house churches was fed into the corporate life of the church. As a result, the parish did indeed come alive...

William Sykes brings thoughts on reviving the life of the church.

Church—building for public Christian worship; body of all Christians, organized Christian society, clergy or clerical profession
I was listening recently to a student from the United States on a summer school in Oxford. He was telling me that although he had a spiritual awareness he found organized religion boring. As far as I could tell he was being thoroughly honest and voicing what a large number of people felt, particularly the younger generation.

I remember trying to tackle this problem in my early twenties. Three of us got together and used to meet for an hour a week, trying to work out the aim and the function of the Church. We were greatly helped by Ernest Southcott's book The Parish Comes Alive. The author, a parish priest, recorded his experiences at Halton, Leeds. As I recall it, when he first went there he found the church services dull, boring and sterile. He felt the small congregation was going through the motions of worship with little inner conviction. He tackled this at two levels. Firstly, he formed a number of house churches which used to meet in the parish during the week. Secondly, the life generated by these house churches was fed into the corporate life of the church. As a result, the parish did indeed come alive.

The three of us were excited by this strategy. The eventual outcome was Visions of Faith, Hope, Love and Glory. These anthologies are designed for the individual and for house churches, to foster and nurture inner conviction. It is hoped they will bring new life to the Church as a whole.

I have built thee an exalted house, a place for thee to dwell in for ever.
2 Chronicles 6:2

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain.
Psalm 127:1

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Acts 2:42

... strive to excel in building up the church.
1 Corinthians 14:12

The maintenance of powerful benevolence is more vital to the Christian church than dogmatic systems.
Henry Ward Beecher, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit, Charles Burnet & Co., 1887, page 109

... the church is itself a mystery which opens on to the 'ineffable riches of Christ,' which we must accept in their totality.
Leon Joseph Cardinal Suenens, A New Pentecost?, translated by Francis Martin, Darton, Longman & Todd, 1975,
page 1

The Church has a right to edify itself by the gifts of all its members. Nothing is more striking than the latent and undeveloped power in the Church to-day.
Henry Ward Beecher, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit, Charles Burnet & Co., 1887, page 198

There must be vitality, elasticity, variety, and liberty in church life, or it will fail for the most part in the great ends for which it was established.
Henry Ward Beecher, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit, Charles Burnet & Co., 1887, page 200

A humiliated and defenceless church must go out into a hostile world to re-discover the God-man in the least of his brethren.
Paul Oestreicher, in Hans Jiirgen Schultz, Conversion to the World, SCM Press, 1967, page 32

... it belongs to the very life of the people of God that it must accept again and again to have its life renewed by a new confrontation with its Lord and his holy will.
W.A. Visser T Hooft, The Renewal of the Church, SCM Press, 1956, page 23

The church exists to proclaim the good news of where true humanity is to be found and to exemplify in the midst of this present world what growth towards maturity in Christ means.
Daniel Jenkins, Christian Maturity and the Theology of Success, SCM Press, 1976, page 67

The true Church is... the communion and fellowship of spiritual persons—an invisible congregation, ever-enlarging with the process of the ages and with the expanding light of the Spirit.
Rufus M.Jones, Spiritual Reformers in the 16th and 17th Centuries, Macmillan and Co., 1914, page 38

Jesus never required membership of a church as a condition of entry into God's kingdom. The obedient acceptance of his message and the immediate and radical submission to God's will sufficed.
Hans Kiing, On Being a Christian, translated by Edward Quinn, William Collins Sons & Co., 1977, page 285

A Church without hope has nothing to offer anyone. It is just a collection of demoralized individuals so concerned about their own survival that they haven't the freedom to offer society the Gospel in its power and comprehensiveness.
Colin Morris, The Hammer of the Lord, Epworth Press, 1973, page 10

The Church is most true to its own nature when it seeks nothing for itself, renounces power, humbly bears witness to the truth but makes no claim to be the possessor of truth, and is continually dying in order that it may live.
J.H. Oldham, Life is Commitment, SCM Press, 1953, page 95
The great problem of the Church (and therefore of its theologians) is to establish or re-establish some kind of vital contact with that enormous majority of human beings for whom the Christian faith is not so much unlikely as irrelevant and uninteresting.
H.E. Root, in A.R. Vidler, editor, Soundings, Cambridge at the University Press, 1962, page 6

The Church must take care that in trying to build a bridge across to the secularized modern world, it does not abandon the bridgehead on the Christian side and find itself left with nothing to communicate and nothing distinctively Christian to contribute.
F.R. Barry, Secular and Supernatural, SCM Press, 1969, page 33

It is not permissable to designate as 'unchurched' those who have become alienated from organized denominations and traditional creeds. In living among these groups for half a generation I learned how much of the latent Church there is within them.
Paul Tillich, On the Boundary, William Collins Sons & Co., 1967, page 67

Without contemplation and interior prayer the Church cannot fulfill her mission to transform and save mankind. Without contemplation, she will be reduced to being the servant of cynical and worldly powers, no matter how hard her faithful may protest that they are fighting for the Kingdom of God.
Thomas Merton, Contemplative Prayer, Darton, Longman & Todd, 1973, page 144

If we manage to be clever and busy about all else—contemporary problems and contemporary tasks, even the meeting of other great and real human needs, but are silent or ineffective about the mystery of the soul's communion with God, then the greatest riches offered to the Church are lost and its ultimate distinctiveness from all other associations has gone.
Norman Goodall, The Local Church, Hodder and Stoughton, 1966, page 28

The Church is people, fallible and sinful people, and if it is no better than any other human institution it is certainly no worse. It is nonsense to pretend that we could have our religion without it; and though it has fallen into grave error from time to time, I doubt if it has done as much harm as nationalism, materialism, colonialism, capitalism, communism, fascism, militarism and apathy.
Gerald Priestand, Priestland's Progress, BBC Publications, 1982, page 213

The persistence of poverty, together with inadequate provision in social care, makes its own demands on the Church. Some of the most basic explanations of the present situation lie in the area of public values and public policy. If the Church, as a company of people seeking to be loyal servants of the Gospel, is to respond truthfully and helpfully it needs to be an aware and understanding body. Both at the level of its national organisation and at the level of its congregational life, the Church... needs a deeper and more informed awareness of social need and public policy.
Faith in the City, Church House Publishing, 1985, page 278

Dedication to the Gospel must always lead to a new and living sense of brotherhood with all men. Yet our tired segments of the Church, burdened by the whole weight of their history, try to take men captive by shutting them off in a special compartment from the rest of mankind. All too often the churches are saddled with reactionary views, rooted in the past and limping along behind the times. We accept this state of affairs too readily, generally without admitting it to ourselves. We allow ourselves to be caught up in a Christian environment that we find congenial and in the process create a ghetto of like-minded people who are quite unmindful of the real world.
Roger Schutz, in Hans Jiirgen Schultz, Conversion to the World, SCM Press, 1967, page 74

... we want a resurrection for the Church. Some despair of seeing this accomplished. That is faithlessness. Church history proves that there is in the Church an ever-present possibility of resurrection. The Church is in fact a great 'community of the resurrection'. In a mysterious but definite way, the Christians who are suffering with our Lord's suffering, dying with our Lord's death, and living with our Lord's life, hold the world together, as the famous passage in the Episde to Diognetus says: 'the soul is enclosed in the body and yet itself holdeth the body together; so Christians are kept in the world as in a prison-house, and yet they themselves hold the world together'.
Eric Symes Abbott, The Compassion of God and the Passion of Christ, Geoffrey Bles, 1963, page 40

Within the strange, sprawling, quarrelling mass of the churches, within their stifling narrowness, their ignorance, their insensitivity, their stupidity, their fear of the senses and of truth, I perceive another Church, one which really is Christ at work in the world. To this Church men seem to be admitted as much as by a baptism of the heart as of the body, and they know more of intellectual charity, of vulnerability, of love, of joy, of peace, than most of the rest of us. They have learned to live with few defences and so conquered the isolation which torments us. They do not judge, especially morally; their own relationships make it possible for others to grow. It does not matter what their circumstances are, what their physical and mental limitations are. They really are free men, the prisoners who have been released and who in turn can release others.
Monica Furlong, With Love to the Church, Hodder and Stoughton, 1965, page 22

This church which Jesus founded has today become a stumbling block to almost anyone who is drawn to him. For the life of the church falls far below the level of the life of God's reign on earth as we see this bursting forth in the early Christian community. The New Testament church as it is reflected in the book called the Acts of the Aposdes was (to use its own language) filled with the Holy Spirit. It was pervaded by the spirit of Jesus of Nazareth, now exalted as Christ and Lord (the Holy Spirit and the spirit of Jesus are identified at several points in the New Testament). It is true that there were quarrels and rifts and deep differences of opinion: but the force which eventually overcame these differences and preserved the essential unity of the Christian community was the spirit of the risen Lord working among his disciples.
John Hick, Christianity at the Centre, SCM Press, 1968, page 76


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