“The voice of prayer is never silent, nor dies the strain of praise away” goes the line from the most popular hymn in England: “The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended”, by John Ellerton.
Here are the words:
- The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended,
The darkness falls at Thy behest;
To Thee our morning hymns ascended,
Thy praise shall sanctify our rest.
- We thank Thee that Thy Church unsleeping,
While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping,
And rests not now by day or night.
- As o’er each continent and island
The dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent,
Nor dies the strain of praise away.
- The sun, that bids us rest, is waking
Our brethren ‘neath the western sky,
And hour by hour fresh lips are making
Thy wondrous doings heard on high.
- So be it, Lord; Thy throne shall never,
Like earth’s proud empires, pass away:
Thy kingdom stands, and grows for ever,
Till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.
It is a wonderful hymn, and a wonderful sentiment. The triumphant claim in the final verse, however, makes me feel slightly uncomfortable. I am not sure that this is true any longer. It seems to me that the Church – in all its different forms – is under attack.
Some people would clearly state that the attacker is the Evil One. Perhaps they are right. There is now, and always has been, some influence of evil inside the Church. Although we may always pride ourselves in saying that it is not in our community, it could be. We are an organisation made up of human beings.
Since the Royal Commission, no one can doubt that what some had known and many suspected was true – that there were people within all traditions, and in all structures, that were abusive. As a result, public perception of the Christian Church as a whole has declined. This is quite understandable, and may even be appropriate.
Yet – I believe there are things about the Church, which remain good and true and essential to the health of society. This applies to the majority of Ministers, and the majority of parishes, of all denominations, and the majority of people who are followers of Jesus Christ. As in everything, it is the scandalous and the shocking which create the most attention.
Our Anglican Diocese of Melbourne has gone to some length to put into place safeguards, to ensure that such abuse will never happen again. We can be proud of these measures.
However, the opinions of non-church-goers do concern us, and affect us all. We, (Christians) may be regarded differently since the Royal Commission. How does that make you feel? Here in our parish, there has not been much of a decline in numbers of people on our rolls – however, it seems we may be attending church less often. Some parishes and traditions are declining more rapidly.
We are the Body of Christ on earth. Our purpose and our truths are still the same. We are called to love. First, we must love God – with heart and mind and soul and strength, and also our neighbour, just as we love ourselves. The challenge in the coming years, will be to change our perceptions of what the Church might look like. I doubt we will meet for a traditional service on Sunday mornings. Why not dream about alternative possibilities, now? We are people of vision, and of dreaming. Indeed, we already have two congregations of families, which meet for breakfast and Godly Play, in our Sundays@nine groups. They represent our present and our future.
Let’s pray for God’s will to be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven – whatever that might look like.
God bless your week