Of course I always do what my trustees tell me, well sometimes. So when Dan Barnes Davies, IC trustee currently training for ordination at Westcott House told me to read Dave Tomlinson’s ‘How to be a bad Christian’ I have obediently obeyed.
I have been particularly struck by one of the chapters, entitled ‘Wakey! Wakey!’. He tells the story of Susan – who came to the realisation that, in her words – she had been living her life as if she had been sleepwalking through it. Tomlinson reflects how we are all in danger of sleepwalking through life.
”Sleepwalking on the inside is something we all do, when life seems boring, or painful, or too demanding, or when we don’t like the person we’re with, or when we’re anxious or worried, or just wish we were somewhere else.
We switch off, disappear on the inside, perhaps numb out in front of the TV or computer screen, have a drink, fantasise about the future, romanticise the past – and fall asleep to the present moment. It’s possible to sleep through an awful lot of life. Which is why we need periodic wake up calls that say: “This is your life! Wake up Stop sleeping through it.” (p 51-52)
Advent is one of those times that the church provides for us to have a wake-up call. It is an opportunity for us to stop and reflect on our lives as Christians, and our calling as the people of God. The trustees of Inclusive Church recently spent some time reflecting on what may be our priorities and focus over the next couple of years. This has been a helpful exercise, not least because it made them question the very existence of Inclusive Church. Why are we here? What do we bring that is distinctive? A number of things emerged from this time of reflection – that will help direct the future work of Inclusive Church.
There is something perhaps from Dave Tomlinson’s call to wake up, that Inclusive Church can learn from. We should not be complacent. We have women bishops in the Church of England, but there is still much to do with issues of gender equality. We have equal marriage in state law, but in the church there is still much discrimination for LGBT people. There is more openness in society about encouraging people to talk about mental health issues – but in the church we are often too silent. The church is not the place of welcome and inclusion that it should be – part of our work is to say to the Church ‘wake up’. In a sense we need to be an alarm clock for the church – alerting it to discrimination and exclusion. Inclusive Church still has much to do!
Bob Callaghan. National Coordinator