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I Too Had A Dream

Dr Martin Luther King stirred a nation in his famous speech, ‘I have a dream‘.

I too had a dream: mine was about what the Church of England would look like if it was truly the Body of Christ, a shining city upon a hill. This shining city would have no need to plan mission and evangelism: its light alone would be beacon enough to draw all around to it. No need to do: enough simply to be.

In my dream, the Archbishop of Canterbury has Moses as his role model. He tries to lead all Anglicans out of darkness to a land flowing with milk and honey. When sometimes his vision clouds and he can no longer see the way clearly, he goes up Snowdon to talk to the Almighty. When he comes down from the mountain, our latter-day prophet can again plainly see the way forward and the people, re-energised, crowd around to follow him. For there is neither Chancel nor Nave; there is neither Priest nor Lay; there is neither High nor Low; there is neither Male nor Female; there is neither Straight nor Gay; there is neither Black nor White; for they are all one in Christ Jesus.[i]

This Body of Christ is a rainbow in which, as Marx suggested, from each is expected according to his or her abilities, and to each is given according to his or her needs. As blood circulates in a human body, so does the Holy Spirit circulate in the Body of Christ. All the members of the Body work in harmony together for the good of the whole, and each has a part to play. The hand does not look down on the foot, nor does the foot look down on the hand, for each is of value in building the Kingdom of God.

Every Maundy Thursday, the doors of each cathedral in the land are flung open for all those who have committed their lives to the service of Our Lord to renew their vows, whether these be as bishops, priests, deacons or laity, for the Church recognises the ministry of all four orders.

The Church is guided by the three-fold pillars of Scripture, Tradition and Reason. Truth is not laid down from on high:

 As a method, Anglicanism invites all people to encounter Jesus Christ in a community, the parish, that is shaped by the common life of its congregants and clergy, in communion with its bishop and diocese. That invitation is wide: “come and see.” And it is conscious of the command that we must love God with all our mind, among other things. Part of the method is therefore to treat people as adults who can and indeed must think for themselves…We are also confident that the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist, faithfully administered and faithfully received, are vital to every Christian’s life. And we make available as needed the other sacraments as well. Our method for being church includes therefore a strong emphasis on God’s action in our communal life, celebrated ritually. As all human beings are creatures of ritual, we see this as natural. Furthermore, we are not interested in doctrine as an intellectual exercise so much as shaping a way of life… But our peculiar approach to tradition requires communal reasoning, and we think this must be as widely informed as possible. We have deep respect for our elder brothers and sisters in the Faith, but we also know that bearing forth the Faith into the future requires living it in our own generation. Thus when we sense that reforms are necessary, we cast an eye back to the Tradition for inspiration, but not uncritically. And when change is necessary, we can go forth when we have convinced ourselves that such change is essentially consonant with the Faith as we have received it…Anglicanism is about meeting Christ in everyday life, through a community of prayer, sacrament, study, and service, sharing life together with all the saints who have gone before, and learning to follow Jesus in the way we live and how we love.[ii]

And then I woke up.
For a moment, I was disheartened by the mismatch between dream and reality. But then I thought again about Martin Luther King’s speech of 1963:
This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of the Christian Church. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of internal squabbling to the sunlit path of harmony. Now is the time to lift our Church from the quicksands of internecine feudingto the solid rock of brotherhood…

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream…

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is our hope, and this is the faith…With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of the Anglican Communion into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together.

Home at last! Home at last!   Thank God Almighty, we will reach home at last!

And later: ‘Mine eyes have seen the coming of the glory of the Lord

If you had a dream about the future of the Anglican church worldwide, what would your Anglican Utopia look like?

[i] Cf Galatians 3.28

[ii] The Rt Revd Pierre Whalon, D D, Bishop in Charge of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, ‘What is Anglicanism?’

[iii] The words of Dr King’s speech are as he spoke them, except for those in blue type.


8 comments on this post:

Erika Baker said...

I love the vision.
But… spanner… works… me? Never!…ok:

“This Body of Christ is a rainbow in which, as Marx suggested, from each is expected according to his or her abilities, and to each is given according to his or her needs.”

This was always were Marx failed. The bible is more realistic about human nature. There will always be those who couldn’t care less about fairness, who will exploit the system, create an inherent imbalance that can spoil the whole.

I haven’t got an alterantive vision, I wish I did. But what Scripture calls “sin” and “evil” is a reality of human existence, not an interim inconvenience. Is there a vision that could genuinely create the kind of society we’re so desperate for?

16 August 2011 12:12
UKViewer said...

I am into visions, particularly ones, where the Kingdom of God is shared, here and now.

From my view on the world, the Kingdom of God is actually, alive, active, but obscured by clouds, which prevent the Rainbow being seen by most of us. We occasionally get a glimpse through the lives of living Saint’s. By this, I mean those who live wholly as if God was walking hand in hand with them. I know many such, and when I look into their face, I think I see the reflection of Jesus Christ, smiling back at me.

These Saints, are not leaders, they are not great preachers,not great theologists, not great philosphers, just John, Joan, Martin or Ruth, who live for Christ, and in many small ways, spread his love among us. They are the child, eyes shining with Joy at the rain drops on the petals of a flower of the leaf on a bush, the child glorying in being fully alive and bouncing with health and joy. The child, running into their mothers arms as they come out of the primary school down the street from my house.

Sure, many Priests and Bishops might be charismatic, but they are called to be so. What has the average person, who follows Christ got, no kudos, no praise, no rewards, just their life in Christ, and what more do they need.

I meet them most days, and have the privilege for a short time to share a laugh, joke, cup of tea, prayer or worship with them. That’s my Kingdom, living reality in our lives, blessed by the Grace and Love of God.

16 August 2011 14:14
Lay Anglicana said...

Ah, Erika, yes – IMHO that is the fatal flaw of the Left: ‘Wrong but Romantic’ as “1066 and All That” had it. Once you allow for original sin, it is impossible unfortunately to create an Utopia on earth. But although I’m no Marxist, this particular phrase I have always thought a good way of starting to build a perfect world.

I quite like the idea of a blueprint, but it is very difficult to draft. With advance apologies to our American friends, I have always thought “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” leads straight to the egotism of Ayn Rand and the right to bear arms. The French “liberty, equality and fraternity” is flawed as well, as you cannot have more than two of these three at the same time.

Saying we are here to imitate Christ is helpful (if equally impossible on earth) for an individual, but more problematic as the basis for constructing a whole society, isn’t it?

16 August 2011 15:12
Lay Anglicana said...

You are wise, UKViewer, and in particularly poetic mood this afternoon. I share your vision of the Kingdom of God being here and now, on earth, or it is nowhere: it may be elusive, we catch only a glimpse of it at a time, it is not a static state.

We may catch these glimpses as we look at the day to day business of the Church of England, but the clouds seem thicker over those ‘plotting’ to impose the Anglican Covenant than they do over your John, Joan, Martin or Ruth as they go about their everyday lives, blessed as you say by the grace and love of God.

16 August 2011 15:19
Erika Baker said...

I think the big problem is that we’re not actually happy with our live as Johns and Ruths. We want to make an impact, we feel we need to be able to change the world in a bigger, more meaningful way than by smiling at someone or giving them a cup of tea. We constantly feel guilty before Christ for not being more successful in bringing about the kingdom – and that either makes us feel bad or resentful.

It’s hard to be genuinely contended with one’s role in the Body of Christ – and the moment we are, we run the risk of complacency…. it’s SO difficult, isnt it?!

16 August 2011 16:19
UKViewer said...

Erika, the feeling of restlessness, of needing to do more, is natural, but a wise Priest told me that you can give yourself indigestion by being that way. He tells me that just ‘being’ is so important. We went through an exercise where I kept a diary, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute for a month. When I actually worked it out, how much time I gave, particularly when I was being pushed hard in the discernment process, I wondered if I had time to sleep.

It showed me how important a life of prayer is, how making those quiet times for prayer and reflection are needed. I try to go to Aylsford Priory once a month for time with just me and God, and nobody in between.

Sure, I could do more, but is God telling me to do more, or is it my ego calling me to be out there, to be seen, to be doing. It’s difficult to tell the difference, but I resist as I know that I’m doing enough.

I’m trying bible study at the moment, Working through a book and the bible together. Lots of distractions, so I now do an hour a day, and ration it. It’s enough. It might not be out there doing, but its helping my to grow and mature. It’s preparation for something I might be called to do in the future. Equipping yourself in this way is doing, just as much as being active in the public eye.

Laura, not poetic, just writing what I feel and believe that I see, day to day. I think that its the small things that make up the Kingdom, and the big or great things, Worship and the Cathedral or in community, is the icing on the cake.

God’s love is out there, active and working, its just helping others to discern it in small ways.

And the covenant. Not sure that I can give it the attention it deserves. Just prayer that the Spirit will be discerned and that the dioceses will reject it.

16 August 2011 16:44
Grandmère Mimi said...

Jesus said, ‘The kingdom of God is among you.’ I believe he meant the words not just for those around him at the time. The words are true for us, right now.

I know that some say to speak of the paradoxes of Christianity is a cop-out, nevertheless, the kingdom is a paradox, because it is right now, but not yet. We do not have the kingdom in its fullness now, but if we keep watch, we can catch glimpses of the kingdom. The best we can do in the present is each of us do our small part to make the kingdom of God a reality today.

Martin Luther King’s words have comforted me time and again when I become discouraged.

I like very much Pierre Whalon’s words about Anglicanism. What he describes is the practice of Anglicanism at its best.

16 August 2011 22:07
Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you, Grandmère Mimi. You put the paradox of our Christian life very well, and I’m glad you share my admiration for Bishop Pierre Whalon’s commonsense Christianity.

In my post I suppose I was trying to cover both this journey that we are all embarked on as well as a journey I wish the Church of England specifically would make. I may have to dream on…

16 August 2011 23:26

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