I went into Bramhall URC, as I’ve previously said, because in my branching out I wish to find more examples of the similarities amongst the people that belong to different branches, isms or schisms. More examples of religion binding rather than dividing. And I did find examples of that.
My entrance was warm (probably helped by the fact that I have met the Revd Alan Pooltan on several occasions!), and an introduction of welcome from Revd Alan at the start of the service meant that I didn’t have to explain who I was numerous times. There were many lovely, friendly people around me, and I was offered a seat with the first person I met upon entering: Rita. A lovely, bubbly, elderly woman guided me through what would happen, and gave me some of the church’s history before we started.
We sang hymns, the choir (much larger!) sang on their own before we left, we prayed, and we shared communion. Differences were that it was much more informal, the communion (given on the first Sunday of the month) was given out by sides-people who came round to us whilst we remained in our seats, and we all drank the wine (or was it cranberry juice?) simultaneously from our own small glasses. Different, but a service that was intimate nevertheless, in another form with no rigid structure.
Revd Alan spoke of the Hebrew words for ‘sin’, and how it can be compared to that of an archer shooting his arrows and narrowly, or widely, missing the center target. He spoke of how we must not give up because of that, but as we go through life we can learn to aim more accurately, and with God move on through it. Another interesting part was his analogy of the rucksack. Revd Alan gave us a riddle. What is the best way to carry something heavy? The answer was, give it to someone else (God). God carries our burdens, God gives us the strength we need. God gives us a rucksack of grace.
The sermon fascinated me. It reminded me very much of a sermon I had heard Bishop Oscar of Newala preach in his visit to my parish in March. + Oscar told us that it was no good to keep our metaphorical arrows in our quivers. We need to aim, we need to take action in life. Two priests of a different ism, two men living on a different continent, held such similar messages in their hearts, and came out with beautiful, uplifting reminders of God’s love and grace.
Pretty inspiring that eh?
Before I left, a woman came to me and told me that she was happy that I was going to find out more about the different religions and churches. She said, “You know, one day I think Jesus is going to come back to earth all ready to greet people, and he’s going to look at all these different churches and religions, and see that half of them are convinced that they need to battle each other to prove that they are right. Then Jesus is going to scratch his head, look at them, and say: Where on earth did you get that idea from?“
We don’t need to battle each other. We need to love one another as brothers and sisters of humanity.