Sarah McCarten


When I tell what I believed about church.

churchSome time during 2006 I wrote this and then I said it at a talk I gave at the home group I was part of:

‘I don’t want to be part of a church that is renowned for building good venues, or for doing good services. I don’t want the church of my generation to be remembered for the great music we have produced or the talented worship leaders we’ve have.

I don’t want to be part of a church where everyone is lovely and I don’t want to be part of a church where I’m friends with everyone.

The church I want to be part of is in love with and in awe of Jesus.  Where the most important part of everything we do together is whether or not Jesus shows up. A church that is totally sold out for Him, where nothing else matters.  A church that will do anything to connect with their God, even if that means late nights and early mornings everyday, we will do what it takes.  Because the truth is if we seek His Kingdom first, everything else will fall into place.

If we are the church and we do it right, this will become so attractive to people who don’t yet belong to us, that they will want to come in and we will take them in, us connecting with each other and with our God will be our outreach and our mission.

I want to be part of a church that’s raw and that’s real.  A church that is searching for meaning.

I want to be part of real support network where we can call upon each other whenever and wherever we need to.  It’s safe to be honest and vulnerable.  It’s not meant to be fun all the time, but it’s not meant to be hard all the time either. We will see and know the joy that surpasses all understanding, daily.

The church is accountable, and responsible for each other.

The Church I want to be part of is a place where there is an opportunity for collective worship, through song and by other means.

The church I want to be a part of understands that people are different, and that one congregation doesn’t fit all but ultimately we all fit together.

The community in which the church is, is not necessarily the place where they live but the group of people whom they are a part of, that could be the people who they work with or their social group or their family’s, but these are the people who they reach out to.

I want to be part of a church that lives in the reality of the cross.

I want to believe that there is a place for everyone in the church and that if I’m in my right place that when I’m not there I’ll be missed, not in an arrogant way but just in a where’s Sarah, it’s not the same without her, no one can fulfil my role the way I do.  Everyone’s contribution is valid and valuable.  The church aught to be a place where people are changed and where transformations occur – we shouldn’t be the same person who arrived.

We need to make disciples of each other and make ourselves vulnerable enough for others to make disciples of us.

I read it again and I cried a little.

During the time I wrote this the house group I was a part of was working out whether or not to go it alone as a house church. Ultimately, we decided we’d be better off on our own. I left the group about 18 months after it’s formation moving London to study theology and about a year after that the group stopped meeting altogether. I tell you this to give you some of my back-story, not because I think our church failed, but because I think it was brilliant, it was just what a lot of needed for that time.

The reason that I cried was because I was such and idealist young person. I wasn’t satisfied with where I was, for sure, but I had aspirations about where I wanted to be. So often these days I’m cynical but I produce no alternative. I say that things are bad, but that’s just how things are.

I’m not saying that I was right in all the things I wrote, but at least I had purpose; If I wrote it now I’d certainly be more articulate and my theology better.

Someone once said that we should be the change we want to see. I’ve not been that I’ve been that and for that I am sorry.

Thanks so much for reading, it really does mean the world to me, I tweet here, you should take a look I’m pretty entertaining.



When I tell you that I didn’t get out of my car.

IMG_0082I saw her in the rear-view-mirror of my car. I was in a service station about half way between my parents’ home and my home, about a hundred miles from each. I was surprised to see her as she was so far from home. I thought about getting out of the car and saying hello, but I was in a rush and she looked like she was talking to her friend.

I drove out of the service station I felt gutted that I hadn’t made the effort and got out of my car, I could turn back but I was on the motorway and it would have added at least 30 miles and a half an hour to my journey. Besides, I couldn’t even be sure she’d be there on my return. I had plenty of stuff to do when I got back to London and I was sure I’d see her at some or other church thing some or other time.

It played on my mind the rest of the journey. I’d spent so much time with this lady in my teenage years, she’d made such an effort with me, she’d really helped me realise my potential, she was one of the first grown ups to not treat me as though I was weird and I as though I just needed to conform to some evangelical ideology of faith, she’d let me do my thinking for myself. I’d been too lazy to get out of the car and say hello to her.

I visited my parents a couple of months after that and they told me that this lady was sick, she had cancer, but she probably wasn’t going to die, it was curable. I knew that 1 in 3 people in the UK got cancer each year. I didn’t know, and still don’t really, how many people die from it. I went on about my day like nothing had changed, I trusted that the doctors knew what they were talking about, and in my experience, if they’d said someone might die, there was a chance they’d live, if they’d said they’d live, they had. If I’m honest I thought that this lady would probably end up cancer free and she’d have a good Jesus story to tell.

Since no one had mentioned it I’d forgotten that she was I’ll so when I was visiting my parents recently and my mum got a text message it wasn’t the first thing that came to my mind. My mum told me that this lady had died.

Actually died, like I’d never see her again, I’d missed my chance; this wouldn’t be a happy Jesus story. It was just crap.

I was angry with the colleague of my mother’s who had text her to let her know. I was angry with myself also, firstly because I’d not gotten out of the car those few months ago but mostly because I had never told her how much her support had meant to me during my formative years.

Now I’ll never get the chance.

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A sort of book review meshed with a conversation about how I’m prepared to give Christian fiction a second chance.

So this post is a kind of mezze of things that I wanted to write about. The first being Cory Copeland’s recent book, These Were the Nights. The second being my relationship with Christian fiction. Finally, me being wrong about some stuff, namely Christian fiction. Actually, it’s less of a mezze and more of a quiche, I do hope you enjoy it, Christians love quiche.


‘I wish they’d just make their point!’ I was relaying my disdain towards preachers who used stories instead of a proper sermon. I was at a dinner party chatting with five friends about something or other when we got on to the subject of narrative in preaching. The conversation progressed onto story and how really, I’d much prefer to read a book that tells me what the author thinks, rather than trying to reveal his ideas through a story.

I don’t know why I was so frustrated. Perhaps it was because the handful of preachers or the few writers who I’d witnessed doing this didn’t particularly appeal to me. Or perhaps, more accurately, it was because the times I’d heard or read this stuff, by ‘this stuff’ I mean Christian fiction, I felt like I was being sold a particular brand of theology. A theology that I didn’t want and I definitely wasn’t interested in if it was being revealed to me this subversively.

I’d often felt that these preachers or authors were trying to coerce me into their way of theologising, without even being honest enough to tell me. Or worse, that they were simplifying or dumbing down their lofty theology so that a mind as simple as mine might be able to understand it.

I understood that Jesus taught in parables, and I understood that was the way their culture communicated, but that wasn’t something I wanted really.

I wasn’t so opposed to non-Christian fiction, but I wasn’t reading much of that either, save, of course, my annual obligatory reading of Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Then something happened, this guy whose blog I read wrote a novel, and I was interested. From what I’d read of him it didn’t seem like he had a particular brand of theology that he wanted to sell me, it didn’t seem like he had a particular ideology or doctrine that he wanted me to adopt, and for the most part, I’d liked what I’d read. I bought the book! The author’s name is Cory Copeland, you can read his blog here.

When it arrived I wasn’t particularly impressed, especially by the size of the thing. How the hell was I to find time to read that? I had theology to be reading you know! (Incidentally the book took me a day to read, and it was a day that I was working.)

The next day when I picked it up again I was equally disappointed. It started with a scene with a guy taking drugs. I thought to myself ‘this is going to be one of those stories about how good God is and how bad drugs are, but God is more than powerful enough to over come those deadly substances.’ If I’m honest I was a bit sick in my mouth. Even though I understand that is the truth, life doesn’t always work out that way. As I continued to read I realised that Copeland was very aware of this too. I’m glad that I continued to read, because I had considered throwing the book out, or giving it to my mum, I think she likes those ‘God is stronger that drugs’ stories.

As I read I found that overall the story was well written, I enjoyed the way that the story flowed, and I appreciated Copeland’s attention to detail. I actually loved it!

I remember thinking halfway through, he’s going to have a major task pulling this story together for a happy ending. As I finished, I realised that he’d written a good, fitting ending, not a happy one, this seemed apt though.

There was a story a little over halfway through, it contained an incident between the main character, Gideon’s, girlfriend, and the pastor of their church. I’d wished Copeland had made a little more of her story. Clearly, she did not want to be doing what she was doing, she was clearly being pressured into her actions by her superior, him being both her pastor and her boss at work. Actually, in leaving the story where he did, Copeland helped the reader experience what Gideon was going through, from his position he was unable to rationalise what was going on with his girlfriend, and by moving on where he did Copeland helped us really understand what Gideon was feeling.

Although the main character Gideon is quite dissimilar to me, I found myself resonating and identifying with his responses and attitudes. It felt a bit funny actually, because I don’t feel like my actions are very similar to his but the way he thought, and responded had a massive effect on me.

Copeland’s attention to detail made me think that he was concerned more with story than with getting his point across that any point he wanted me to learn, I understand that he was making a point, but I don’t feel like that was done at the expense of the story.

So, what am I saying? I’m saying that I’d like to read Christian fiction again. I’m saying that Copeland had done a good job. I’m saying that I was wrong, probably!

So Copeland, when’s the sequel going to be released? (Joke, that was supposed to be ironic)

If you’d like to you can buy Copeland’s book here, I should if I were you, it was worth the wait!

Thanks ever so much for reading! Have a lovely day!