Last Sunday, the house church I’ve been part of for the last ten years came to a close. Started by a couple of friends with some great supporters, this thing has given life to a small but beautifully-formed little community. And now, a decade later, we’ve said farewell to what has been a remarkably important part of its members’ faith, life and discipleship.
What’s really struck me over the past few weeks is how people have reacted to the news:
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Are you okay with it?”
“How are you all coping?”
It’s the natural reaction, I suppose. Something is coming to an end. And so it’s reasonable to assume a sense of loss or a deep sadness.
It’s not always how we react to loss though is it?
No one says: “I’m sorry to hear – you had that wart removed,” or: “how are you coping – with the closure of that wasps’ nest in your loft?”
We recognise that some loss, some closure, some endings are positive. But they tend to be negative things.
So when something good is coming to an end, what are we meant to say? How are we meant to respond?
In the grand scheme of church history, our 10 years is nothing really. The denomination that birthed us is celebrating 150 years of existence, and a few weeks ago I visited Salisbury Cathedral, the construction of which started in 1220, and that was to replace the old one that was built in 1078. Our little decade doesn’t come close.
In moments of doubt I wonder if this means we’ve failed, that our inability to stick around makes us somehow less worthy, or less credible. It sometimes feels like the better something is, the longer it stays around. That somehow tenacity equals brilliance. Maybe that’s what people are really wondering when they ask how we’re feeling? Perhaps they’re acknowledging our failure, or our inability to ‘go the distance.’
But I’m thrilled we’ve closed our house church.
Don’t get me wrong, I still deeply love the people in the group, and I will always be grateful for every moment, good and bad; every joy shared and every tear shed. But I’m proud to be part of something that not only lived well, making plenty of mistakes along the way, but knew when to stop and wasn’t afraid to. To be part of something that is prepared to die, not because of exhaustion or old age, nor because of some sickness that crept in or a plague put on us, but to die because sometimes it’s the only way new life gets a chance.
There’s no agenda here, I’m certainly not suggesting everything that lasts a long time is past it, and I’m not naive enough to think that everything that starts and ends quickly has been brilliant.
I just wonder what might happen if we lost our fear of things ending? What might we be released to release and freed to finish? If we were able to take stock without the looming fear of failure, what might we stick with confidently and what might we have said goodbye to a long time ago?
And so, for me, this is a fond farewell – because there really is such a thing.