I have been reading a book by former Methodist President of Conference, Tom Stuckey. I’m not quite finished yet, but I’m nearly there. It was published in 2007, soon after his presidency, and is called “On the Edge of Pentecost”.
It is a book that expresses great fear for our (Methodist) Church and its immediate future; yet, at the same time, as the title suggests, a hope too that God is not done with us yet. Despite the fears expressed, it is written with a boldness and candour that many will find unsettling. It speaks some uncomfortable truths, some of which resonate deeply with the stirrings in my own soul. Over the coming weeks I shall take a look at some of these in more detail.
This morning, as I read the tenth chapter, “Pentecost”, I was reminded of something written by Martyn Atkins in his book “Resourcing Renewal”; Atkins wrote (page 21), “…Put sharply, if the Missio Dei in any time and place cannot be pursued with the Church as it is, God raises up a new Church.”
Tom Stuckey, in chapter ten, recalls something of the near destruction of the Church in Cuba after the revolution; since that time, it has been forced to set aside the many trappings of institutional Western Church and rebuild itself through Prayer, Fasting, declaring the work of the Holy Spirit, witness and the planting of many small house churches. Having dwindled to less than a thousand members, there are now more than a thousand churches.
Stuckey reminds us too of the hunger within us that our Western lifestyles and modern science cannot satisfy; of the spiritual vacuum that increasing secularisation is creating. When I put these two themes together – the vacuum of spiritual need, and the inability of institutional religion to satisfy it, the Cuban experience gives us hope that God can and will indeed raise up a new Church.
Stuckey quotes from Amos 8:11-12…
“The time is surely coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but a hearing of the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.”
The hunger is growing. I see it around me constantly, both within and outside of the Church. I have a sense that the soil is being tilled; the ground is cold and dark, like a field in winter waiting for the first warmth of the sun. But there will be further frosts, cold nights and biting winds to endure before the first brave seeds break ground.
In the meantime, it is time for our Church to ready itself; not for harvest, but for the new storm, a new unsettling – the turbulence and the chaotic energy of the Holy Spirit.