As I’ve said the wedding was good ‘un. One of the crucial ingredients was definitely friendship. The bride and groom are, to differing degrees, part of a truly remarkable network of friends that has been sustained and matured over the past fifteen years. It has been fascinating to observe and to a certain extent participate in this network of friends. It is marked by great openness, remarkable hospitality, genuine care; an ever shifting, labyrinth of relationships, a kind of This Life with added Jesus.
It was the friends and the way they mucked in with admirable commitment and genuine skill that made this wedding so right. And it was reconnecting with this network that brought to mind an important lesson about church: it’s impossible to make church work well unless you grow real friendship.
In my table of key indicators of a healthy church, friendship would be pretty close to the top. People enjoy church and stay there when they find friends. Fostering friendship has to be one of the most important skills a church leader can develop. If we aspire to a flourishing church community we ought to treasure and encourage those who have the spiritual gift of parties, the born (again) conveners of conviviality.
One more thing, the kind of friendship I have in mind is very rarely based on attending meetings. In my experience it is far more likely to grow out of drinking wine or beer together, playing risk together, eating cheap and nasty curries together, playing golf together, watching films together, playing poker together, walking together, playing football together, arguing together, playing music together, camping out at Greenbelt together and mucking in to arrange a friend's wedding.
(Out of interest does anyone out there know of any decent theologies of friendship or any substantial work on friendship and church growth?)