I have just returned from a week at the 14th Uniting Church Assembly. The meeting was held in Winthrop Hall, University of Western Australia. Those of you who know this stunning building may remember the amazing mandala that is found towering in the front in the form of a rosary window. There is nothing like a mighty archetype of wholeness as a constant reflection point as we talked about who we are as the church and how we relate to each other.
The church talks a lot about wholeness. It is what we hope for ourselves, the world and others. Many of the stories of Jesus are centred around a search for wholeness. Our western society, however, has a way of disintegrating us, fragmenting us. We are divided into flesh and spirit; physical, psychological and spiritual; while all we long for is to be integrated and one.
As I meditated on the mandala, I became very aware of the ways that the church can fragment rather than bring wholeness. It was very clear that for some in the church the work of wholeness is a lot easier than for others. I certainly felt this privilege throughout the Assembly meeting. Not once did I feel, for any reason, that I did not belong, that I could not contribute or that I may be judged. I did, however, experience others making themselves extremely vulnerable; those who had difficulty expressing themselves in the dominant language, those who with great courage crossed cultural differences to engage in our way of making decisions and those who risked sharing their hurts of being judged for their sexual orientation.
As I looked into the faces of these people silhouetted by the mandala behind them, I was left with nothing but admiration. Their longing for wholeness and acceptance in the church was a struggle. The place where grace and wholeness should have been readily available had often be the stumbling block. It is a challenge to keep in sight the vision Jesus had for our world and our relationships. We get so tied up with doing church that we forget to be church. It is hard work.
My prayer for myself in the days ahead is that each person I meet will have that window of wholeness behind them as a reminder to work for wholeness for all people in all situations.