There’s a certain moment in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast that never fails to make me hold my breath with anxiety, to wonder what if this time it goes wrong….
Belle is wandering alone around the castle; having successfully shaken off Cogsworth and Lumiere; when she discovers a single rose floating in a glass dome.
(I want to say that she is in the West Wing at this point, but then I am in The White House with president Josiah Bartlet!)
Intrigued she takes off the glass dome and reaches out as if to touch the rose when all of sudden the Beast intervenes – snatching the glass dome out of her hands and placing it back over the precious rose in a single movement.
Why so precious? Well it was an enchanted rose of course, and the Beast was an enchanted Prince. While the rose survived the Prince still had a chance to reverse the spell that had turned him into a hideous beast many years before, but, when the rose lost its last petal he would be doomed to remain a Beast forever.
So what does he do? He just leaves it floating around! What if he hadn’t got there in time? She nearly knocked the last petal off! Why not take more care! Couldn’t the glass dome have been fixed down somehow in readiness for any beautiful but headstrong girls who might happen upon it? It could at least have had a sign next to it: “Polite notice: please do not touch”.
Ok – so what’s my point? Well the Beast could have learned a few things from those who hold the keys to church culture.
I am currently trying to plan towards a total spring clean of church life. I want us to empty out all those spaces where things accumulate – the equivalents of the attic, the cupboards, the drawers, even the dreaded long-neglected garage in church life. And then to lay everything out on a metaphorical table for us all to look at.
Unfortunately as I have looked into how I might proceed with this project I have discovered that the culture of a church is not really kept in the equivalent of an attic or a garage, but rather behind the equivalent of a state of the art museum display case to which – as I noted recently in Project Space: Who holds the Keys – I don’t hold he key.
So the question is: how effectively can you assess what you do, how you do it and why you do it when you can’t properly examine all the constituent parts? I want to turn them over in my hands and get a feel for how they compare to each other. I want to see where they have aged, if they have become obsolete, or whether they just need some restoration work.
Basically, if we are aiming to ‘S P A C E’ everything that makes up church life – to Sort, Purge, Assign a home to, Containerise, and finally Equalise it all – how do you do that when church life is under lock and key?
And the answer? No – AN answer: to humbly, prayerfully and lovingly point out the dangers of leaving it all where it is. Next up: Autopsy of a deceased church by Thom Rainer.