In July we are following the daily scripture readings from Finan in Celtic Daily Prayer Book 1 entitled City without a Church.
The City Without a Church is a meditation by Henry Drummond on a selection of verses from Revelation chapters 21 (verses 2 and 22) and 22 (verses 2 and 3). Extracts from it feature in the Finan series of readings for July in Celtic Daily Prayer and it has become an important text for the Northumbria Community because it deals with ‘church without walls’ and ‘kingdom in the streets’; in fact it dovetails very neatly with the Community’s Rule which states:
We embrace the challenge to live as ‘church without walls’, living openly amongst unbelievers and other believers in a way that the life of God in ours can be seen, challenged or questioned. This will involve us building friendships outside our Christian ghettos or club-mentality, not with ulterior evangelistic motives, but because we genuinely care.
Although this meditation is framed in the muscular, self-confident language of the Victorian era, its underlying message to us is as fresh as if it was written yesterday. The message is this: the institutional churches have ‘stolen Christ from the people’. What struck Drummond about John’s vision of the New Jerusalem was not just that he saw a city (and that was amazing enough, given that our usual thoughts of heaven tend towards some kind of pastoral idyll) but that he saw no temple (or church) there. Although Drummond has hard words for the institutional church, he is by no means anti-church: he just wants it to wake up to the realities of real faith and get its priorities right. ‘Nine men are striving to get men to go to church for one who is striving to make men realize that they themselves are the Church.’
For Drummond, this involves getting out of our church buildings and getting totally involved in the concrete realities of our streets – starting right where we are, with the mess of real life all around us. He says that ‘it is only because the secular is so intensely sacred that so many eyes are blind before it.’ And how should we go about this? Drummond points out that ‘by far the greatest thing a man can do for his City is to be a good man’; and (lest anybody forgets this is a Victorian text where ‘man’ means women as much as men) he goes on to say that ‘most of the stones for the building of the City of God, and all the best of them, are made by mothers.’
A city is a strategic place; Drummond invites us to believe passionately in our city; and ‘in the service of its neediest citizen find Heaven.’