In the year following Richie McCaw holding the Rugby world cup for New Zealand my eldest son wanted to play rugby. He became the first Zintl to play. For Matteus it was a year of new experiences and the odd missed tackle. Every once in a while the parents from the team would get a warm invite to the rugby club rooms to have a few drinks. Being right into football (Go Germany), I never was that interested.
I figured that rugby club rooms were similar to a football club rooms. They’d serve the purpose of being a gathering place for players and their families to connect. Each environment would be awash with its own traditions; passionate patrons, cheap jugs, and fostering conversation deeply grounded in their code.
The day came where I finally got my chance to visit the rugby clubroom for Mattues’ end of the year prize giving. We all went as a family. As we ascended the stairs we were met by some kids running about. The walls in the foyer were filled with portraits and faded shirts of players long past their prime on the field.
The atmosphere was warm enough and filled with much conversation. The diehard regulars were front and center. They held the main table, almost as guardians of the club. Amongst their fellowship they knew all tales of rugby heroics as well as their own cherished heritage. As a pastor I have become acutely aware of new people who come to church. Sometimes it’s not hard to spot someone at the back who feels a little out of place or nervous. Sometimes as a church we do welcoming and relationships really well. Sometimes we don’t for all sorts of reasons; we get overloaded, busy or are ourselves a tad dysfunctional.
Back at the rugby club rooms, the boot was well and truly on the other foot. This time I was the one who was nervous. I was the outsider. I didn’t know where to sit or what to talk about in rugby terms. I simply didn’t know what the social norms of my new environment were. In hindsight it was a timely reminder because it was right then that I sensed God say that my “rugby clubroom time” is what it’s like for most people who’d come along to a church. It can be rather fashionable to knock “the church” like a piñata these days. People have disappointments on some level about how other people can treat each other. Sadly this is true for the church also.
A hefty critique is not the point of this blog entry. I do want to emphasize that being a part of a church means that we have our own traditions, language, culture, theology and liturgy. The centrality of Christ and the fore mentioned elements define us as a community. It is because of these things that new people won’t understand or get right away. That’s a point of great consideration. As the church may we be reminded of what it means to host, commune and to connect with others. I once heard a speaker say “May we be committed at the core but be open at the edges.” That sounds easy to say I know that it’s hard to model. We’d do well to on occasion to venture to places and spaces in which we are the visitors… mine is that rugby clubroom
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