As some of you know as part of my work over in Sidmouth I was involved in hosting a beach labyrinth which took place on Good Friday. I considered it to be a good success, helped greatly by unseasonably good weather and a low tide! It was unusual in as much as once the labyrinth had been created and a simple guidance given at the start, the instigators of the project stepped back and allowed people to use it as they felt fit. It was quite a moving experience watching people walking the circular path, pausing in the middle to either look out to sea, or to place a stone on the cairn in the middle. We loitered around the installation but only engaged with people if they wished to converse.
As I reflected on the day, which was very different to any other Good Friday I have been involved in, I came up with a phrase that on that day as a minister I was a “facilitator of grace”. There are many phrases associated with ministry but until now I hadn’t reflected on this particular one. God is the provider of grace, but as ministers we are there to facilitate that opportunity and open doors to let it happen. I did a quick google search on the phrase and it turns out that Pope Francis has mentioned it in an article.
The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open. One concrete sign of such openness is that our church doors should always be open, so that if someone, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door. There are other doors that should not be closed either. Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason. This is especially true of the sacrament which is itself “the door”: baptism. The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness. Frequently, we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators. But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.
I particularly like the phrase that “everyone can share in some way in the life of the church”. Access to God’s grace can unfortunately be restricted by our traditions or the particular style that limits those who find it helpful. One of the refreshing elements of the labyrinth was the diversity of ages that walked the path, in fact the majority of people were younger than me! It has given me further resolve to allow the Mint to be used as a conduit of grace, especially for those who have no Methodist background, that way we can all be facilitators of grace.