Management maven Stephen Covey tells of an old tale about a samurai and his 3 sons: The samurai wanted to teach his sons about the power of teamwork. So he gave each of them an arrow and asked them to break it. No problem. Each son did it easily. Then the samurai gave them a bundle of 3 arrows bound together and asked them to repeat the process. But none of them could. “That’s your lesson,” the Samurai said. “If you three stick together, you will never be defeated.”
This is a story that shows how strong a team, a community, a church, a people can be when each of its constitutive members relinquishes his or her narrow interests, ideologies, fantasies for the common good, for the high calling. If this state can be achieved, then good things begin to happen- even what some may call miracles.
200 4 200
It was sometime in early 2017 that Andrew Hewitson approached me with an idea. He called it 200 4 200. It was a simple idea but a serious one too. I once heard someone say that we are at our fundamental best when we can take a very simple idea very seriously. It was simple in that it was imaginative and serious in that it was daring. The aim of this catchy slogan was to get 200 people excited to worship Jesus Christ on Sundays in the sanctuary of St. Mungo’s by the end of 2019- a year that would mark the 200th anniversary of St. Mungo’s on its Bedford site. 200 4 200 began to take shape with a brainstorming session.
Why Not Us?
In the early 1990s, that period in which the cassette overlapped with the burgeoning era of CDs, the time in which one’s affection for a girl was canonized and communicated through the whimsical, carefully arranged mixed tape, I remember walking into a music store to purchase a CD with the money I had saved for several weeks. (This was a time in which teenagers could not so easily curate their music collection through the internet. If you were lucky you would have the radio tuned to your favourite station and when the DJ announced the upcoming song (perhaps that hit song you had been waiting for), you could begin to record on the rewriteable cassette tape. (By relaying this story I reveal something of my age.)
Prominently displayed at the entrance was a new album by a group called The Cranberries. The cover asked a seemingly puckish, almost rhetorical question: Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? And with just that, they had won me over. Entirely. I bought the CD even without listening to the sample tracks.
Of course, the rest is history- This down and out Irish band from Limerick that would write the soundtrack of a generation.
Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? This anthem has stayed with me as a battle cry in these rather challenging hours for the Church of Scotland. I’ve condensed it to Why not us?
Miracles are still possible. Consider this: Karl Barth’s influence on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s first dissertation, Sanctorum Communio– a book Barth described as a theological miracle; because he did not see how such a book could be written at the University of Berlin (the hotbed of liberalism) – very aptly captures that the impossible is always still possible.
In Boston’s North End, there is a place called Paul Revere Mall. There stands a wall lined with the plaques commemorating the famous residents of the North End of Boston- these mavericks, these unflappables, these visionaries, these dreamers. On a faded plaque is one for Paul Revere:
Paul Revere 1735-1818. Patriot. Master Craftsman. Good Citizen. Born on Hanover Street. Lived on North Street. Established his bell foundry on Foster Street and died on Charter Street.
As Philip Broughton, a former Telegraphjournalist, points out:
He had not travelled to find his fortune. It reminded me of [Prof. Lassiter’s (of Harvard Business School)] advice to find a world-class tribe and stick with it. The North Enders at the time of the American Revolution had certainly been that.
I realize that in my own small way, I am living into such a ministry and a life summed up in that plaque: we must become the people we have been waiting for. To put it more Christologically, we must let Christ transform us into the people we have been waiting for.
I have been sent here to Alloa to learn something of the beatitudes- their true intent and enduring nature, to know something of private grief and joy as well as public grief and joy and to understand something of their true relationship for the minister.
Why not us? must become our battle cry if we are to buck the trend to what is happening to western mainline protestant denominations. I am certain that if we can rediscover the boldness in our speech as shaped by the cross-shattered body of Christ, this shall be enough for us to testify to the hope we have in Christ. And the hope we have in Christ will not put us to shame. I live ONLY in this hope. It is my Eschaton.
Only Christ saves.
Indeed, why not us? Come join us to become the 200, the world-class tribe, whom we have been waiting for.