Transcript of Discussion with Bill Hewitt
I believe in the Holy Ghost
the Holy Catholic Church
the Communion of Saints
General Opening Comments
When started to prepare for today there was so much material it came to 28 pages so this morning was a fairly condensed version. You will have noticed that the children’s talk and sermon dovetailed this morning. Neither Roddy or myself had spoken about what either of us would say and that happens so many times when sharing service, it all comes together: there’s reflection enough on ‘I believe in the Holy Ghost!’
Given my experience latterly as a bureaucrat it is much easier to talk about the church! But where is the Holy Spirit? Do we believe in the Spirit in the same way as we believe in God the Creator? You have evidence in that you can see creation and you can read about Jesus historically, but the Spirit quite difficult: is it impersonal, an agent of God? We talk of people having a ‘great spirit in them’. Is this the same way to read the Spirit or do we see the Spirit as the Third person of the Trinity?
Comment: I see the Spirit as being God’s power and exercise in the world.
Bill: Is it then personal or does it have a gender or is it a force for good somewhere?
Comment: Spirit intangible but very real. If you ask me what gender I’d say it has no gender.
Comment: I’d say it is both male or female
Comment: The power of God in Hindu is female.
Bill: The spirit is personal to me: it is not an outside force. Someone had the image that a man might be a surgeon with his hands at work, but then at home he is a husband to his wife but also a father to children offering an image of different roles and tasks in the one person.
Bill: The Creed states: I believe in the holy catholic church. What do we believe in the church?
Comment: Church is God’s Church and will always be a church and it doesn’t matter if our bit is not do very well. God’s church not be beaten: all hell will not prevail against it. That brings comfort when look at the church today in the west.
The Church is the community of all those that believe in God. Some say not everyone can be part of the church if they deny that they believe in God regardless of what else believe about how we should live towards others.
Bill: Calvin said only those pure enough can be allowed in but the Church is full of saints and sinners. Until it is pure everyone is part of the church. Difficulty with some congregations is that they are hankering after the pure church. I know places where people are excused from coming to communion because they aren’t good enough.
Comment: Why do we let congregations away with this?
Bill: Perhaps we don’t have the will to impose the discipline.
Comment: Judge not that ye may not be judged.
Comment: Talk this morning was about language. This is all about language and how we get it wrong. We give different parts of the church different names but hidden behind the names we give ourselves is that Church of Scotland is different from Roman Catholic which is different from Episcopal. This just emphasises the differences rather than being open and broadminded. The community would be very different if it was more broadminded.
Bill: Things are changing in the church. 40 years ago the elder (story in sermon) who knocked on the door saying this is a Protestant church and not a Catholic Church would be less likely to happen. We have far more coming together than ever before. When we talk of being one it doesn’t mean being the same. We are still different in practice and governance, and yes congregations focus on the differences rather than what they have in common. But as our influence in society reduces then perhaps the similarities will be emphasised.
In the Sottish government I was at a meeting this week and MSP Bill Kidd was congratulating Shia Muslims on what they were doing in our communities: the head of blood donor unit was saying how much they were doing, and Muslins doctors saying what they were doing in Syria. It was good to hear but also to realise the Church of Scotland do all of that already and we need to speak louder and be more proactive about these things.
Maybe in the early days Christians were particularly attractive because they lived the words rather than spoke them. Speaking is not so good as seeing it. In our contemporary times the whole Hospice movement would collapse if it wasn’t for Christians being part of it. We do it because we love God and one another. This is how we live out our faith.
Comment: A previous minister here once said that whenever someone crossed his mind he went to see them. You have to have time to listen to the voices you get. That is how the world works. Rooted and grounded
Comment: There are lots of examples of listening to the Spirit speak and being prompted. Part of the difficulty is we often shut out the Holy Spirit and sometimes ignore when we do hear. Through the prompting God wants us to do things. We can see that more often in looking back on life: why did we choose to do this and not that: is this the hand of God?
Bill: Talking of language, where are your thoughts on tradition. The Creed comes from 200 AD when followers wanted to affirm what they believed in. Churches that are growing (Destiny, re:HOPE) do not have tradition in style and language so they have new songs and no hymns. They are known as Future Chasing Churches: everything is in the future and not in the past. How important are the traditions of the hymns for you in NK?
Comment: Tradition is important but then I’m old. Where I grew up everyone went to same school and there was a community spirit. Are we bending over backwards to accommodate other religions.
Bill: Do both and. The driving force behind Muslims is a Glaswegian who knows the hymns we sing and knows the Lord Prayer as he attended school here and her wants everyone to work more closely.
Bill: Do we need the creed?
Comment: Yes: we’re part of the universal church. Each time someone has a new creed not everyone subscribes to it. I love the traditional. I enjoy what goes on in other churches. What I wonder is the depth of the understanding of Christianity. When you think of Messy Church and things like that it can seems quite superficial. A lot of bible study but not the breadth.
Bill: Often what is presented is a friendly Jesus but Jesus is more than my friend, there is a mystery and something beyond friendship. Would you see them as being part of the universal church?
Comment: Long time ago when in another place as a BB officer the minister decided that because that captain didn’t attend ‘his’ church he could no longer could be captain. Led to two things: the captain wasn’t there a year later and it destroyed the work being done with a group of 40 youngsters in an area akin to Drumchapel. Now a days, when we think of the words of the Creed, how relevant are they to young people? What would they say? I don’t say too much about it because it is going to be their generation that are most affected by it. They perhaps see it as mumbo-jumbo and need something else in its place.
Bill: Perhaps they don’t know what they need in its place therefore they forget past and look for something different.
Comment: Look at the date on the hymns!
Bill: There are words there some just do not understand. So is the Creed still relevant? The really important words is ‘I believe’. Belief is a matter of will and one powerful thing about the Creed is that we choose to believe. It frees God to come into lives and work in us and enables us to walk in that faith.
One of the earliest statements of faith is: ‘God is God and we are not God’.
One of the early instruction groups I can remember for new members talked about the difference between ‘I believe the world is round’ and ‘I believe in God’. The latter is a statement about relationships: My mother believes in me: can’t prove that about the relationship but I live presuming it is true. We are bound together in that communion past, present and future.
Comment: Your comments about Muslims: Glasgow City Mission do a bible study each day and all faiths come to it. As a result two baptised into Baptist Church.
Bill: what we have in common is a huge amount especially the central tenants: love God and love neighbour (Christian, Muslim, Jew etc)
Comment: Holy Spirit lives within me: the church nurtures me but for my faith, I need to be outside the walls. Another’s pathway to God might well be different but all Gods children are on same road
Bill: Yes, in me and in the world. Not confined.