R.S. Thomas would not, I suspect, have been a fan of church growth strategies. This poem reads, to me, in a sense as a vision for the church’s renewal. But this is not the sort of renewal that will put bums on seats and make the ‘Stats for Mission’ look better. This is renewal which comes from a more expansive vision of what worship is, and where it can be found.- in the seas, and the sands, and the church “full only of the silent congregation of shaddows”.
There is something I find both reassuring and challenging in realising that we don’t need to be chasing after success, trying to be bigger and better, in order to be faithful to God. Reassuring, because it doesn’t depend on me. And challenging because I have to admit that so much is beyond my control. There is something valuable in learning that “prayer, too, has its phases”, learning to work with those rhythms and not to try to impose our own against them. Like the garden, the life of faith and the life of the church has phases of fruitfulness, of hidden growth, of lying fallow. Like the moon, it has phases of waxing and waning, fullness and newness. All are important, and need to be honoured for what they are, not forced into the pattern of what they are not. This is part of what it means, I think, to learn to live in the way of “the never absent, ever returning Christ.”
This year for #AdventBookClub we are reading “Frequencies of God: walking through Advent with R.S. Thomas” by Carys Walsh. Join the conversation on Twitter using #AdventBookClub or on Facebook by searching for the group ‘Advent Book Club’.