Being Church: The formation of Christian community
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BEING CHURCH raises questions that it doesn't
fully answer. Most books worth engaging with do the same. Greenwood
makes a passionate argument for the way ahead for Church. (He is
keen never to say the Church.)
He holds that the current way of papering over the cracks and
expecting fewer and fewer stipendiary clergy to carry the same
administrative and leadership burden by taking on more and more
parishes is destructive of people and utterly futile. He longs for
Church that is built on a clear understanding of the Trinity,
Church that is about inclusion, welcome, and acceptance, because
the whole baptised people of God are being disciples together. He
dreams, in a memorable phrase, of pioneer parishes, and not pioneer
priests. At the core of his argument is the idea that Church
becomes Church by being Church and acting like Church and living
There are two main tensions that Greenwood never quite resolves.
First, this book is written for the hierarchy of the hierarchical
Church that he is arguing against. It is hard to see that enough
lay people would read it to join the movement that he longs
The second is that omitting the definite article in "Being the
Church" makes the Church he dreams of ethereal and hard to grasp
hold of. The difference between Being Church and Being the Church
is the same as the difference between Being Community and Being the
Community. Being Church or Being Community is intangible and
conceptual. Being the Church or Being the Community is something
real that people can rely on and touch and see.
Ironically, the difference made by the absence of the definite
article is best shown by the examples that Greenwood offers of what
it looks like when the Church gets it right.
There is an excellent manual on parochial practice in Being
Church begging to get out, but that is not quite the book that
is being advertised to the reader.
When the book is good, it is very good indeed. His challenge to
the senior leadership of the Anglican Churches in Great Britain and
beyond is timely and precise. He writes eloquently of the pressure
put on clergy, especially in rural areas, by a failure to plan for
the future strategically and collaboratively. He presents a clear
and attractive sketch of what a thriving and Spirit-led Church
would look like.
Above all, dotted throughout the book like rewards are
encouraging case studies from Greenwood's own ministry and
experience. He shares the questions that helped him to supervise
his staff team. He offers the example of how a small group of
churches engaged with their community in a new way. He writes of
his bruising experience of reordering a church. Such things stay
with the reader and inspire.
The Revd Richard Lamey is Rector of St Paul's, Wokingham,
with St Nicholas's, Embrook, and Wosehill Community Church,