We are part of a great organisation! There are approximately 16,000 CofE parish churches in England. Although regular attendance at church services is reckoned to have halved over the past 40 years, even so about 10 million people visit an Anglican church every year and about 1 million students are educated at Anglican schools. About 2.6 million people attend a Christmas service and 1.2 million attend an Easter service each year. Approx 1 million people attend a service in the Church of England each month. Many, many more people are practising members of the Anglican Communion in other countries. And Anglicans are just a small part of the Christian Church world wide.
So we are part of quite an impressive organisation, and we need to remind ourselves regularly of that. We get a glimmer of this on big church occasions – such as the recent Archdeacon’s Visitation in Astbury Church when our Churchwardens and Sidesfolk gathered with those from other parishes to make their promises of allegiance. Nevertheless, each tiny part is precious. Our prayers might seem like a drop in the ocean, yet they are heard by our loving Lord who, as the shepherd of his sheep, knows each sheep by name. In any case we would say that small things have the potential for big consequences – oaks from acorns or, in scriptural terms, the mustard seed which becomes the largest of all garden plants with branches big enough for birds to perch in its shade.
The church is much more than its buildings or physical assets or traditions. The church is its people. Each member should feel upheld, and each member should work to uphold others and consider how to use their Talents for the building up of the church (using one New Testament model) or to be effective parts of the Body (using another New Testament model). When we take Communion we share the one bread and we share the one cup, following Jesus’ instructions the day before he was crucified. The shape of the Crossreminds us that we have a vertical link to God and also a horizontal link to each other. We are also linked across the centuries. In St Leonard’s Church Warmingham the chalice is dated to the 17th Century. For about 350 years Christians have received Communion from this cup, so those taking communion in the church are joined with them in celebration down the centuries.
All a bit awesome, but very heartening and heart warming.