Sarah McCarten


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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.

 

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A few thoughts about friendship.

I wanted to write about friends. I wanted to tell you about some of the best friends I know. They may not be my best friends, although many of them are, they are simply good people who are good at being friends.

If you’re reading this and you’re my friend, please don’t think this is guide to loving Sarah better, there are plenty of things that make a good friend. Personally, I make an effort not to fake friendship and so if you and I are friends the chances are that I really do like you! This is a reminder to myself as well as to you about how we can make life a little bit lovelier for each other.

They make you feel at home.

I love it when I feel at home. When I go home to my parents I feel like that, but there are not many other places where I feel like that. Some of my friends though, have perfected the art of making me feel at home. I can’t put my finger on what makes me feel at home. I think it has something to do with the fact that they have things that I’ve bought or made for them around their homes, or that my name is on their to pray for board, or that they have my photograph hanging on their wall. I like that I am part of it.

It definitely has something to do with not feeling like an inconvenience to be there. That I can help with the kids reading, or make myself a cup of tea without asking. It also has something to do with the effort my friends make to welcome me, so not that I just turn up and I fit into their family life, but that I turn up and their routine has to change a bit, but they don’t mind because they want me to feel at home there.

Then there are those other wonderful friends who have the gift of making people feel at home at places other than their own home, that might be at a home group they attend or at church or anywhere really. Those people, I think, are brilliant.

They criticise you for your sake.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a chat with various friends about what they’re doing in life really irritates me. Of course, I dress it up in ‘this is to help you’ language, often it isn’t really to do with them, it’s not damaging or sinful, it would just make my life marginally nicer if they stopped doing it. It might be that their behaviour is sinful or damaging but, I don’t tell them to be helpful, I tell them because it is pretty damn annoying!

I’ve got a friend who I don’t see very often anymore, but for a time we spent a tonne of time together. I feel like he knows me pretty well and he makes it pretty easy to be honest with him. Every time I see him, I prepare myself for a telling off. And I love him for it. You see, he’s not telling me off because he wants me to be a better friend to him, or because I’m doing something that’s annoying. He tells me off because he genuinely wants me to be a better person, for my sake, and for the sake of the Kingdom of God. He tells me this stuff honestly and humbly. Some of the stuff he’s heard from our friends, but mostly it’s stuff that I’ve told him about my life and journey, he’s a pretty discerning young man! He’s usually right, and I usually go away feeling good about myself! He’s a brilliant friend! I’d be pretty happy if I got to be as good at being a friend to someone as he is to me one day.

They don’t make excuses for you.

I’m a little quirky, I’m loud, a bit outspoken and I like a bit of controversy; but I’m pretty happy with the person I am these days. If I’m honest I sort of expect my friends to be. There are not many things that I enjoy less than a friend who feels the need to make excuses for me. When I meet their friends or we meet new people they say; ‘that’s Sarah, she might seem a bit [insert aspect of my character that my friend is not so keen on today], but she’s actually an lovely person when you get to know her.’ Errrrr… actually no thank you mate! If you’re happy to be my friend in private, please be proud of me in public. Likewise I shall try not to make excuses for your inconsistent theology, or your preoccupation with the ‘problem with the church’ or your daddy issues, even though you make it very difficult not to!

They understand what is important.

I enjoy naps and spending time alone. In fact if I’ve not had at least one nap and one evening in alone each week I’m not a very happy young lady. I also eat slowly, and I don’t share my food. These things are very important to me. My friends understand this. I love it when I can say to people, I can’t see you tonight, I’m having the evening in. I know they are friends. When I just tell you I’m busy, and I’m actually staying in it is probable that I don’t trust you enough to tell you that I need time alone. You see, my friends understand that this is not selfish behaviour, it is that this makes me, me. The best way I know to be me, is to process, alone! Sorry about that!

I’ve got some friends who process aloud, and they are some of my best friends, I love listening to them, but it took me a long time to realise that they didn’t mean what they said. They were just articulating their thoughts aloud, and that’s alright. I understand that is important to them and I don’t really question them if they change their minds, I’ve sort of come to understand that what they do out loud is what I do when I spend an evening by myself.

I’ve got some friends who value confidentiality, not that they tell me secrets particularly, but they want what we say to remain between us, so for them I try not to relay their stories to our friends before they’ve had a chance to do that themselves. Sometimes I fail because I forget, or I forget how important it is. I’ve got friends for who it is really important to be on time. I try to respect that, and in that show them that I love them and they are valuable to me.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading! Feel free to leave comments about the things you value in your friends. I tweet here. Thanks for reading!