Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
As I write this reflection (June 2018), the General Assembly of the URC’s sister denomination, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI), resolved to cease offering or accepting invitations from either ourselves, or the Church of Scotland, due to the decisions of both of those churches to explore and enable same sex couples to marry.
This is a sad development. We have been going to each other’s Assemblies since 1844. It leads me to ponder anew what it means to have wounds in the Body of Christ and indeed in the Communion of Saints. It is particularly painful when it feels like we are inflicting wounds upon ourselves; attempting to cut off our own limbs.
Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, Never let me go is set in a present, or near-future, dystopian version of Britain where people are cloned and raised to be organ donors; cloned people are a community apart from the rest of society. Donations eventually result in death once the clone no longer has the organs needed to survive. Not all organs are removed at once, so a clone lives a life marked by illness and pain while they wait to make their final donation. Those in the wider community debate whether the clones are people at all.
In the Communion of Saints how much can be cut off before the body dies? We are talking about the resurrected Body of Christ which surely cannot die in the same way that any other sort of body can, but continuous wounding and, at times removal of key parts, must have an impact. I give thanks that resurrection is an ongoing process. The Body of Christ is continuously being raised from the dead, often against all of the odds. But the scars remain. We are reminded that we belong to one another; whatever decisions any General Assembly, or other Council of the Church, makes we are still held together as the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit. We are called to run the race set before us … together.
Christ, we are each part of your Body, the communion of saints. We pray for situations where your Body is wounded; where there is disagreement and conflict. Help us to remember that, as you call us to be your disciples, we belong to one another. Remind us the work of peace building starts with us. May your Body be healed and transformed, that we are ready to bring about your Kingdom in our world. Amen.
The Rev’d Sarah Moore is President of the URC in Cumbria