Who is this “Pilgrim people”?
During the anniversary celebrations of the past week I’ve heard many references to the Uniting Church as “a pilgrim people”. It’s one of the most loved metaphors in the UCA’s Basis of Union (paragraph 3). I’ve blogged about it before. And, at our best, Uniting Church people are “pilgrim people”.
But it’s important for the UCA to remember that when paragraph 3 of our Basis of Union talks about “the church” it’s not talking about the Uniting Church. It’s talking about the whole church of God extending from Pentecost to “the end of the age”. It’s that church which is “a pilgrim people, always on the way to a promised end”. It includes Catholic, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Anglican, Indigenous, Non-denominational and every other form of the ekklesia of God. The Uniting Church aspires to be part of that “pilgrim people” which “is always on the way towards the promised end”, and which “has no continuing city but seeks one to come”.
Like any other Christian organisation we are prone to tiring of the journey and going for a settled life in a familiar place with familiar people, familiar activities and familiar challenges. So the constant reference to the Uniting Church as a pilgrim people just begs the question, Really?
At the time of union the core commitment was made:
The Uniting Church affirms that it belongs to the people of God on the way to the promised end. The Uniting Church prays that, through the gift of the Spirit, God will constantly correct that which is erroneous in its life, will bring it into deeper unity with other Churches, and will use its worship, witness and service to God’s eternal glory through Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen. (Paragraph 18)
If we belong to that people, “the people of God on the way to the promised end”, then we can be confident that the rest of the prayer will be answered (if not in the way we anticipate or hope for).