There has been rather a lot of negative talk about The Church of England recently, and admittedly I have contributed to it. However I love it too and have just spent the morning telling my VC why. Funny, as a couple of years ago I thought I would never be part of it again, never set foot in a CofE church, never cross the threshold... and yet even then I knew it was a love-hate relationship.
I have always been around Anglican churches (aside from a few years out...), I was brought up going to Sunday school, I spent my teenage years attending CYFA, turning up to 9.45 with a hangover, (midnight mass were always the funniest, seeing who would need the loo first), getting married, taking my chidlren for baptism... always in the CofE. At key points in my life it has been there with open arms, not giving conditions or dictating (well some...). And what other organisation often leaves its buildings unlocked and unattended, for the benefit fo those who live nearby to just have somewhere to go, somewhere to just 'be', to find some quiet, or even some shelter.
It has, of course, also irritated the crap out of me, and don't get me wrong I am not going soft hearted I still think it 'needs work' in some areas... But I truly believe that the CofE has a huge part to play in our society (it might not always be playing it, but it does have the part nonetheless...). Practically every community has a local Anglican church, obviously for some rural places this can be at a distance, but generally speaking, the church is a point in each community. Even for the 'unchurched' that point is usually visited several times during their lives, from baptisms/marriages/funerals/christmas etc. Priests often carry the burdens of their community, again not just of those who attend, but often of those who don't, but are still in need. The pastoral ministry of the Anglican Church is, generally speaking, far more active than in any other church or perhaps even, organisation. The church is accessible to all. the buildings are available, the priests are 'available', all are welcome.
For many, they feel a 'right' to be able to attend church, even if it's only once in their lives. It is a 'constant', it is always there, even when it has been ignored and neglected it is still there and accessible when required. It is also 'safe'. So many more modern/charismatic churches are seen as 'a bit odd' or 'whacky'... yet the Anglican church is safe. It has a structure, it is old, it is constant, it is there. I love that at our very evangelical church the Vicar always stands up and says 'welcome to..., we are part of the Church of England...' you can almost hear visitors breathe a sigh of relief! Yes the hierarchy can be almost dictatorial at times, the clergy sometimes our of date, the services dull, BUT it is safe.
It is diverse. From churches like ours at one end of the equation to very 'high' Anglo-catholic, we are all worshipping God under the same banner. Yes, that can cause division as we have seen, but surely that is part of the beauty that we can come together from our different approaches and backgrounds and agree that we share the love of God. I am loving that as part of my discernment process I am looking into different churches, talking to people from other traditions, and finding that we have the same core beliefs, just a different approach!
The Anglican church unites people across the world. Again, we don't always agree but the sentiment is the same, the focus on God.
So that's why I love the Church of England... (most of the time ;) )