What kind of Church are we called to be?

Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the merciful for they will receive mercy.

The compassion of Jesus is evident from beginning to end in the gospels. Jesus is deeply moved in his encounters with the sick and bereaved.  His compassion shapes his priorities from beginning to end (Mark 1.41, John 11.33-35).

The Church is called to demonstrate this same compassion: to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, care for the sick and visit those in prison (Matthew 25.37).  Churches are called to be communities of kindness, gentleness and love.

To be a compassionate Church means:

  • To listen to the communities around us and to the wider world
  • To identify especially with the lost, the least and the last
  • To live out our faith as Christian disciples in acts of kindness and generosity
  • To act together to serve the poor, feed the hungry and welcome the stranger
  • To mourn for the suffering in the world and take that suffering seriously
  • To be tender and gentle with one another, bearing one another’s burdens
  • To find together a radical new Christian inclusion in the church
  • To provide places of hospitality and welcome for all in our church buildings
  • To offer to all, in love, the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ
  • To nurture children in school communities marked by compassion
  • To steward and care for the earth
  • To take action for peace and for justice.

“Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life . . . the Church’s very credibility is shown in the way she shows mercy and compassionate love . . . Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instils in us the courage to look to the future with hope.”

Pope Francis

Bible Study

Bishop Steven explores the them of A Compassionate Church through the story of the raising of Lazarus.

Read the Bible Study or listen below

Reflection

The Ven.Olivia Graham reflects on what it means to be compassionate.

Simon of Cyrene, hoiked out of the crowd by the imperious shout of a Roman soldier, finds himself standing with Jesus under the heavy yoke of the Cross-bar, gazing at the steep slope they must climb together.

Sieger Köder has painted them as if they could be brothers, these two men who have never met before today. At the end of the sharp and painful journey one will hang, pain-wracked, nailed to wood; the other will be free to go on his way, though changed for ever. Their hands around each other’s waists, their bodies close. They feel the life in each other, the sweat, the beating of each other’s heart, pushed down and together by the tremendous weight of the beam which cuts into their shoulders.

They stare ahead: the one in anticipation of what is coming, the other in unwilling willingness to share the weight that lies without and within. Compassion has the sharing of suffering at its heart. It comes alongside with gentle presence, tender love, desire to help carry the load.

We are called to be a more compassionate Church, and it begins with deep down knowing that we are each loved and precious to our Creator, every single one of the roughly 7,500,000,000 souls who inhabit our beautiful blue-green planet. We, God’s Church, cannot stand apart from the rest of God’s creatures in judgement or indifference. We are deeply part of one other across the globe, and when one part suffers, we all do. We are made complete by one other. We are called to be communities of kindness, gentleness and generosity.

A compassionate Church sings a song of lament, our hearts breaking when we see God’s precious children crying out in despair, hunger, sorrow, fear and pain. We pray and march and focus on practical help and service. We denounce the evil in systems, in religions, in power-hungry tyrants; we work for peace and for justice.

A compassionate Church is not a family – for one must be born into a family and an outsider will never really feel kin. It is a community of those who love, and who enfold the lonely, the sad, the grieving, the sick and the desperate in rich robes of warmth, understanding and acceptance. A compassionate Church speaks in voices which welcome the stranger, the outsider, the one who is different, and knows that its fellowship will be enriched when these become friends, and diminished if they do not.

Christ is yoked to the world he loves; he knows its fears, understands its temptations, shares its pain. From the cross he pours out his compassion on the world, and we, Christ’s Church, are called to absorb it into our souls and allow it to change us, to stand with all whose burdens are heavy, and share them as we yearn for mercy, peace and freedom.

And to be the face of Christ, the face of Love for one another.

Love is the touch of intangible joy;
Love is the force that no fear can destroy;
Love is the goodness we gladly applaud:
God is where love is, for love is of God.

Love is the lilt in a lingering voice;
Love is the hope that can make us rejoice;
Love is the cure for the frightened and flawed:
God is where love is, for love is of God.

Love is the light in the tunnel of pain;
Love is the will to be whole once again;
Love is the trust of a friend on the road:
God is where love is, for love is of God.

Love is the Maker and Spirit and Son;
Love is the kingdom their will has begun;
Love is the path which the saints have all trod:
God is where love is, for love is of God.
Words copyright © 1998, Alison Robertson, Edinburgh

The Ven. Olivia Graham is the Archdeacon of Berkshire. This reflection is based on Sieger Köder’s painting,  Simon von Cyrene. The image cannot be reproduced here for copyright reasons but can be seen in the November 2018 edition of the Door.