To borrow a film title, Love Actually grabbed my attention at a recent mission conference I was attending*.
It wasn’t the love between the delegates, although there was much good will, generosity of spirit and a united mind on bringing key issues about mission to this year’s General Synod. Love actually came as a surprise, during six presentations about mission in Ireland. The aim was to inspire, give us ideas of how to make connections with the community, resource us with models that could be adapted for our contexts.
Love actually came when one presentation about a Church Plant on the outskirts of Bel-fast put down their success simply in terms of love. In a short time their little congregation has grown with people from different social backgrounds and ages, who meet for 45 minutes of worship and longer for fellowship, on a Sunday morning and various other times midweek. And it is love that has actually worked. They trumpet love as their key value, and when you look at their Facebook page you will find this tag line:
TRUST steadily in God
It is not to say that love didn’t feature in the other presentations. I’m sure it did, if only because I had the honour of presenting one of them about the work of our Messy Church /Lighthouse in Blarney! There is oodles of love in the messy fun! It was simply that love leapt out of this presentation from Belfast.
This fledgling Church has all the advantages of starting from scratch. They have built love into their DNA, their modus operandi, just like the infant church. In fact their key text is Acts 2 v 42 to 47**. A Church itself, born in the radiant light of the resurrection of the very first Easter. Two millennium later, love actually needs to be prioritised, practised and celebrated as the driving force behind all our church life. After all, to paraphrase Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13, “.. if I have the most efficient and visionary Select Vestry, beautiful church buildings, and brilliant plans for mission, but have no love, I am nothing but the creaking of a rusty church gate”. In short it is the kind of love that is not saccharin, but intentional, focused and outrageous – the kind of love written in blood at Calvary. Jesus’ love actually.
*The Mission Network Conference held in the beautiful Dromantine Retreat Centre outside Newry. I had the privilege of representing Cork Diocese along with Andrew Coleman from Bandon.
** 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and posses-sions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.