The Psalms are a place I often feel able to find support and clarity in times of crisis. The beginning of Psalm 18 describes a Psalmist in crisis. Someone crying to God for help. After a really descriptive (perhaps even maybe a little bit dramatic?) exploration of God’s response, the Psalmist writes that God ‘brought me out into a spacious place; God rescued me because God delighted in me’. This says something about God, but it also says something about being human.
Look, I was a little bit stuck. It might seem odd to express feeling ‘stuck’ during one’s very first year of ministry, but that is genuinely where I was. I felt like I had been called to do an exciting new thing but I felt like I was being held back by people’s expectations and my inability to say no and to stop and listen to God’s still small voice. It’s really hard to do a new thing in a place that already exists. God didn’t save the Psalmist by keeping them in the same place, God brought the Psalmist out into a spacious place.
And the spaciousness of that place mirrored God’s delight for the Psalmist. Because God delights in us, God brings us out into a spacious place. Yes, I was blaming myself for struggling with ministry. Yes, I was wondering if my calling was genuine. Yes, I was worrying (panicking, even) about all sorts of things. But that is a human story, not a God story. The human temptation is to box oneself into a narrow, closed space. To accept expectations and ‘should’s and ‘must’s and to stop hearing how much God loves us.
God brought me out into a spacious place by showing me that I do have a calling, and that I can be a minister, but that God’s call and my ministry rely on God’s grace, God’s spaciousness. Human expectations, fears, categories, ‘ways we’ve always done it’ and boxes don’t enable effective ministry. And they don’t reflect God’s love. God’s love is reflected in the ability to say ‘no’. God’s love is reflected in ministering in forms that are natural to us and to those who have ears to hear. God’s love, God’s spaciousness can only be shared with others by those who experience it for themselves.
Churspacious is God’s spacious place for me because I can minister there without being hemmed in. Communicating online, with those who wish to be church together, and who wish to be church with me, and who wish to be church with the Jesus they, and I, know and love, feels like being led out into a spacious place. And I am so thankful. And it is not just a spacious place for me, it is a spacious place for all. For all for whom, for whatever reason, church can feel like a narrow, closed in space.
I think the church had kinda got itself into a closed down space too. Lots of churches are doing lots of really good things. But sometimes there is a need to be forced to stop; to pause, to reflect and to work out where ‘the way we have always done it’ is shutting people out or limiting the churches ministry. Lots of people were simply not engaging with church because church was either irrelevant or had shut them down or out before. In lots of places churches were, and still are, struggling. We needed to be brought out into a spacious place.
The current situation has forced churches to close their (physical) doors for a while. And many mourn that. But for many Churspacious members and, I suspect, for many, many others worshipping and sharing fellowship online, this is not something to mourn. The closed doors symbolise, amongst other things, the cross; the shutting down of all of the little bits and pieces of systems and structures that are oppressive or harmful. The shutting down of enclosed, closed spaces. God has led us out into a spacious place, the internet, and there we are free. So, when the doors open again, will we be brave enough to continue to live in a spacious place, a free place, a new world?