I need to admit something – I’ve been getting increasing frustrated with the church.
Now, I don’t necessarily mean the churches I’m vicar of (although they have their moments). No, I mean The Church. And as I tried to think how to express why I’m getting frustrated with ‘The Church’, it made me think of social media.
As many of you will know, research has consistently found that social media acts as an echo chamber (see this paper for one example). To take Facebook as one example (the same could be said for other social media), it’s designed to see what you look at and then show you other posts that are similar. In time this means you only end up seeing posts by people who agree with you and interacting with other people who agree with you.
If my Facebook feed was any true indication of the world then the Tories would never have won the last election, churches would be full of young, liberal people and Donald Trump would have been locked into a padded cell by now. As this clearly isn’t the case we can safely assume that my Facebook feed is not a true reflection of the views in the world.
My Facebook feed exists in a little bubble, that the filters have created for me.
Which brings me back to the church.
The other day I went on a training course for pastoral ministry (if you know what that means, congratulations, you’re in the bubble!). The room was full of church people. And they all looked the same. They made the same comments, nodded agreement at the same moments and, I swear, seemed to have even agreed the kinds of cloths to wear before hand! I wanted to scream!
The church has become this tightly guarded bubble, where most church people only interact with people like themselves. And then they wonder why no-one else seems to have any interest in what they’re saying (that’s if anything they say ever manages to escape the bubble in the first place).
I must admit that I don’t even speak up any more. If you mention this to most people in the church they happily nod in agreement – but then don’t actually do anything!
Look in our synods. Look at our members. Look at our clergy. Where are the working class? Where are the ethnic minorities? Sure, we have token people here and there, like UKIP putting a brown face on their adverts – but our thinking, our conversations, our working all happens safely in our little bubble.
Jesus, on the other hand, always hung out on the margins. The people who weren’t allowed in society, in the temple or the synagogue. Part of the reason I chose to come to my current parishes is that they seek to bring God to the edge of the bubble.
I believe I am called to try to work out how to bring Jesus to those margins. And that’s why I’m getting increasing frustrated at the church!
Of course the trouble with expressing my frustration here is that largely it will only be people who agree with me that see it!