On the pilgrim way: ‘My trouble is I don’t trust God enough’
Sheila Maxey faces decisions
Decisions, decisions! Our small local church has decided, with great sadness, to vacate our building. We have ten members who regularly attend, two boys aged 11 and 13, and three adherents, one regularly attending. We were just not strong enough to maintain and manage the building. Kees and I have been members of this church since 1962 and I was its minister from 1983 to 1993.
Now we have two choices, each with several variables. We continue as a local church, finding somewhere to rent on a Sunday. That might mean an afternoon service, and meeting twice monthly instead of every week. We would continue to arrange leadership of worship when our minister was not available, hold elders’ meetings and church meetings (perhaps the same meeting), manage our money and continue to enjoy worshipping and pastoral fellowship. Alternatively, we close. As we have given ourselves a year before actually vacating the building we would have time to help one another to find a home in other Christian churches. Sacred Space might continue in someone’s sitting room and we might have an occasional social get together. All this is enough to keep me awake at night!
But, as a Christian and a member of a Christian church, am I not jumping the gun? Decisions should come after a period of discernment when, over time, we try to find what God has in store for us as a church and as individuals. Ignatian spirituality has much wisdom about the discernment process. If there appear to be two choices, first look exclusively at one. Weigh up the pros and cons and, in your imagination, live that choice for some time – and then see how you feel. Then, perhaps on another occasion, look at the other choice and go through the same process. Then reflect on what God has shown you.
Ignatius uses such a problematic word about this process. He says you must try to be ‘indifferent’ to the outcome. How is that possible? My trouble is that I don’t trust God enough, that he will show us his way. I don’t trust him to know my needs, how tired I am, how sad I am, how precious my memories of the church building are. I am afraid God is a demanding God, calling us to new mission, calling me to be so concerned about what I think are the needs and wants of others that I am not allowed to have any myself.
I think I have to go back, yet again, to the last verse of Psalm 40 – I am not ready at the moment for the confidence of the earlier verses. ‘But I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; my God, do not delay.’
Sheila Maxey is a member of Brentwood United Reformed Church, Essex
This article was published in the October 2022 edition of Reform