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In Praying Distance

Today was our spring Association Day, reverting to its 'traditional' form after a couple of more experimental ones, and meeting in a rather run down primary schoool , the long-term-temporary-home of a small church in Derby.  As their minister welcomed us, he acknowledged the general culture shock of the surroundings after recent meetings in nice salubrious churches, but wanted to share with us how much it meant to the school that someone would want to book their premises for a Saturday conference - quite a humbling moment.

Part of the more routine stuff is the welcome of ministers new to the Association, and the invitation to pray for them, usually by those near by placing a hand on their shoulders/heads as they do so.  Due to a slip, the invitation was given to "those in praying distance" which caused much mirth before it was corrected.

It was a good day, and Richard Hardy of Care for the Family is a charismatic speaker.  He had come as out keynote speaker and then expecting to speak in special interest groups on 'single people and the church.' He had been advertised as speaking on 'church and community' so offered each group to whom he spoke the choice between the two sessions.  Although I'd gone in response to the advertised talk, I'd have preferred the one on singleness and was saddened when (a) I was the only person in the group who 'voted' for that talk (there was apparently one in the other group too) and (b) that the whole concept of single people having needs seemed to be seen by most as funny, with some patronising comments and derision from those around me.  To be fair, Richard did come to speak to me afterwards, and I think shared my concern that >15 years after the EA work on Singleness and about 5 years after Kristin Aune's work, churches were still not taking this seriously despite the fact that a third of the UK population is single (i.e. not in a relationship).  I suspect he had not expected me to be that knowledgeable though!  What he said about engaging with communities was good stuff, but nothing we aren't already trying to do here .

One of his comments in his key note address was on the distinction between 'Law' and 'Grace and Truth' and what you ought to do if you felt torn between 'grace' and 'truth' - which way should you jump?  While he believes that grace and truth cannot be separated, what should one do if it feels as if they contradict?  He felt that we should err to the side of 'grace' - and I agree, but here's the rub, what do I do when my view of 'truth' tells me something is wrong - or at best it is something with which I struggle - and I long to let grace take priority?  I think that this idea is helpful in some of the areas where I struggle but I need to spend some time working out what it means in practical terms.  Care for the Family is a pretty conservative organisation and I was left wondering if there were relationships types where this stress on grace might find itself challenged, and/or where the 'abundance of grace' arguments maybe would be wheeled out.  Sometimes following Jesus is a tight-rope between 'legalism' and 'truth' on the one hand and between 'grace' and 'laissez faire' on the other.  It'll take me a life time to work it out, that's for sure, but at least help is 'in praying distance'

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