…and the death of community

Earlier this week Mariella Frostrup responded to a truly desperate letter from an overstretched working mother. Working 60 hours each week and caring for a two-year old in her ‘spare’ time, she wondered whether church might be any help despite the fact that she doesn’t believe in God? Some of Mariella’s comments are uncomfortably honest:

Only a truly desperate creature would contemplate embracing a religion they don’t believe in just to get some respite from their daily life.

Some are cynical:

 I’d nod in acquiescence to a mythical life in the hereafter in return for some peace and quiet in the here and now.

Others perfectly combine the naive and the patronising:

The songs and solace offered by the church have taken on a compelling new allure. Led by kindly, cuddly, old-world characters like Rowan Williams who you suspect, given 10 minutes audience, would really understand your problems.

Nobody could argue with her depiction of the death of community though, nor the fact that in our insanely busy lives we need it more rather than less. My issue is more with the way that she portrays the church as a kind of anaesthetic for the pain of community separation. She seems to feel that some time off from the chores of home and work, together with a blast of enthusiastic hymn-singing is good enough no matter what you believe. Surely there is more to it than that?

Surely, too, the church described by Frostrup as a ‘real-life’ community can offer a lot outside the hymn-singing arena?  In the course of an average week in the church where I am writing this people come in to read books, play with their children, exercise at zumba or pilates, give blood, check their homework and more besides. To be a community church is a description of mission, not location.

Last word goes to Mariella Frostrup, though with this delicious piece of irony:

Church seems as good a place as any to start your search for salvation!

Teddington Baptist Church - a mosaic of people