I’m just back from a great morning at Bluntisham where a packed Cafe Church gathered for breakfast with bacon butties (I am thinking of setting up a Bishop’s Bacon Buttie Bursary Fund to make sure every church does it, especially when I am there ) with the artist Steve Eggleton (in the stripey jumper) and to see his new Via Beata installation in the porch blessed. Via Beata (see http://www.viabeata.co.uk/ and https://viabeata.wordpress.com/) is an innovative and inspiring project installing art at waypoints along a coast-to-coast route from Lowestoft to St David’s. There is already one at Little Stukeley, with another planned for Little Gidding. Bluntisham is where the route crosses the Greenwich Meridian, so the painted wood arch now over the porch door carries the bible verse “People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13.29) with folk of all sorts and shapes on their way in (to the feast of heaven and more bacon butties I hope).
Huge congratulations to Steve, to his fellow workers, to all the people young and old in the benefice who helped with the painting and carving, and to Sheila and the church officers for catching the vision and seeing it into reality. I think it’s the best art project I’ve seen for quite a while and it’s spot on for our diocesan vision of being a People Fully Alive in Christ.
The verse from Luke sits alongside Jesus’ teaching on entering the narrow door, and we heard clear calls to come to Christ who is that door for us. It’s been great to see many people come to faith in the Meridian Benefice during the time I’ve known them. I was left with a question, though that I chose to tackle head-on before I said my blessing. The invitation is wonderfully inclusive, and the artwork visualises that beautifully. But doesn’t the “through Jesus” bit sound rather exclusive? How do we reconcile the two?
Well, Jesus has been described as the “man for others”, and the key for me is that when we come to him, we learn to imitate him and are helped by him to be people for others too. As we learn to trust him and become more like him, we stop bigging ourselves up, and stop bunging up the doorway. We let others in, and we discover the truth of what Jesus taught, that when we love them we are loving him – that this is what faith looks like when turned into fact. So we choose Jesus as the way, and invite others to do the same, because we know no better one by which we can deal with that awful human tendency to Do It Our Way, and do it together instead.
And one last thought: there is something a tension around between being Inclusive Church and being Evangelical. The arch of blessing at Bluntisham is a sign that it doesn’t have to be so.