24 May Give the people what they need
Updated: Aug 2, 2019
By Magda Karkosinska-Deneault
Edited by Josie Child
Just recently I came across an interview given by the Revd Nadim Nassar in the Church Times (you can read it here) which really struck a chord with me.
Sometimes thoughts keep swishing around in your head and suddenly someone else speaks them out for you and you think ’that’s it!’ We need to be able to speak out what feels wrong and be prepared to stick our necks out. Nadim has a courageous voice and I admire him for that.
I’m concerned by the year on year decline in church attendance across the country. Why don’t people want to come to church anymore? This is a really important question. Churches should be places of life and joy. Instead, there is a cold draft sweeping through our church buildings as they stand empty, instead of inviting people and attracting them to faith.
What caught my attention were Nadim’s thoughts and feelings that I share about the church in England. When speaking about current national ‘disenchantment’ with the church, Nadim suggested the following:
‘’I’d redefine what it means to be a bishop. Many bishops have become managers rather than shepherds. Jesus did not come to establish a company with managers – he called us to be shepherds.
Bishops should get out from their offices and be what Jesus was. We are the servants of the people in reality, not only as clichés. And also I’d tell a lot of priests to move their bottoms from their offices and get their hands dirty out there. I’m out there every day, and I know how much the people need our listening and hearts.’’
Exactly! Nadim hits the nail on the head. Many times our priests are running around like headless chickens, tending to the administrative side of the church, worrying about its finances, letting people slip through their fingers. Stressed out and pressured. Not noticing the needs of those who come inside, with a heavy soul, wanting to talk to someone but too intimidated to ask for a conversation.
What are people searching for when they come to church? The answer, I think, is authenticity. We want to see a high level of honesty, integrity, and vulnerability from our leaders, inside and out of the church. We want to really know, and be known. Facades or performances are no substitute for real relationships.
God is real. So should be people inside the church. Real and available.
Priests are also ordinary people and not a breed apart. They should not be hidden away or intimidate people. They are like us. They are also fallible. We are all sinners and none of us is above others. St. Paul said he was ‘’the chief sinner’’. When someone knelt in front of St. Peter, he said: ‘’Stand up! I am only a man’’.
Nadim says that priests are servants of people and that is true. A priest will be loved by his people if he makes the effort to understand them. Deep listening is as much needed as prayers.
Sharing and caring should be a big part of each church, because where do you go in times of emotional need? We need people in church to help us move forward in down moments. Yes, Church is for changing hearts and giving people a fresh direction in life, but it is also about comforting those who mourn and coming alongside people who are struggling.
As Nadim says in his interview, ‘’the tender, loving, self-giving side is there, but if it was more visible, we wouldn’t see a lot of our churches empty’’. The early Christians ‘’turned the world upside down’’. We need to get to work as well.