A view from the pew

Young student (on meeting a famous Christian theologian), “I have to tell you that I do not believe in God”.

Theologian, “Tell me about the god you don’t believe in. There is a very good chance that I don’t believe in that god either”.

Finding a personally acceptable image and experience of God is rarely a straightforward journey. Most people encounter stumbling blocks along the way and it is a fortunate person who does not have some questions, doubts and concerns about Christian faith and belief.

This is understood and accepted at Crows Nest Uniting Church. Questioning and the sharing of doubts and concerns are encouraged because we see uncertainty as a necessary and potentially constructive aspect of the journey of faith. We feel that our mission is to support one another on that journey and not to be in the business of providing dogmatic, once-and-for-all answers to questions about God and other aspects of Christian spirituality.

As a Christian community, we look first and foremost to the story of Jesus for inspiration and guidance. We access that story through a questing, reflective and non-literal reading of the Bible. We find fundamentalist and evangelical views of Biblical inerrancy and authority unjustified and unhelpful. Under the leadership of our minister, we look primarily to “progressive” Biblical scholarship, much of which has been driven by a renewed interest in the “historical” or “pre-Easter” Jesus – in the story of Jesus rather than stories about Jesus. Drawing upon manuscripts, discoveries and insights not available to earlier generations of theologians, this scholarship is helping us to meet “Jesus again for the first time”.

Although in some important ways we are not a typical Christian community, our welcome is for everyone. Our members come from a variety of denominational, social and ethnic backgrounds and range in age from babies to seniors. This has encouraged us to embrace diversity, to respect differences, and to value everyone’s experience, gifts and talents. There is a strong emphasis on sharing leadership and other roles.

The community comes together for worship every Sunday morning. The services follow a conventional format but have a contemporary flavour. The liturgy often draws upon material from the visual arts, poetry and other literary sources. Opportunities for private reflection are regular features of services. Because several of our members are talented singers and instrumentalists, we enjoy a rich and varied musical fare. In addition to the Sunday service, we share a range of social activities including jazz nights, luncheons and cinema outings.

The Uniting Church, of which we are part, is strongly committed to serving the wider community not only by providing care and support for those in need but also by speaking out on social justice issues. We identify with that commitment and have embarked on several community based or community oriented projects. We do not want to be a “holy huddle”. Christianity, in our view, is not about personal piety or conformity to a religious moral code. Rather, it is about striving to live lives that affirm Jesus’ revolutionary message that love, compassion and justice are changing the world and we can be part of the process.