If you read the New Testament epistles or the Acts of the Apostles, you’ll be in no doubt that rows and disagreements have always been part of the fabric of church life. They still are. Sometimes they’re about what the Rector does or does not do, or what he permits or does not permit. Sometimes they’re about what the wider church organisation does or wishes to do. Sometimes they’re about something that happened years ago that we enjoy raking up, not realising that it is like a cancer, and that we are becoming more and more like Gollum in Lord of the Rings. At the root of all this, it seems to me, is lust for control. We can’t seem to let go of the illusion that the cosmos revolves around what ‘I’ want. Why do ‘I’ want it? Is it because if I don’t get it I feel as if I’ll be letting down the memory of my forefathers? Is it because I can cope only with what I am familiar with? Is it because I’m pretending that I’m still in my prime by keeping things as they were then?
We need to ask questions about our understanding of church. Is it a mystical reality, or an earthly club? Is the Church of Ireland a loose confederation of individual parishes that can do as they like, or is it part of the Church of Christ? If we are all parts of the same body, as St Paul writes, then what is the equivalent of the nervous system that coordinates activity and allows communication between the different parts and the centre? What, indeed, is the centre? And what does that mean for the way that we as individual Christians, and as Christian communities, carry out our business?