The five women waiting at the station chatted excitedly and laughed often. They were all ‘of an age’ and wore deliberately ostentatious purple dresses and bold red feather-laden hats. I stopped to compliment them on how wonderful and happy they looked. One told me, “We’re going on a harbour cruise today because we’re celebrating 10 years of our club.”* They beamed with pride.
I wished them well and moved on to the sunshine further along the platform. I thought about clubs.
Not the places of lurid carpet and mysterious gaming rooms with furtive smoking areas and lots of raffles. Not even sporting clubs which, although they are about passion and shared interests, seem so much to be about winning as well, sometimes at any cost.**
No, the clubs that are just about really liking something and doing it with others who share the same like (or love, or passion or weird-but -harmless*** obsession).
At various times I’ve been part of formal or informal clubs, societies, teams and peer groups devoted to papercraft, appreciation of M*A*S*H, The Beatles, Orchestral Manoevres in the Dark (an 80s synthesiser band, not funny business) and pub trivia.
Some clubs last just for a brief poignant time like the purposeful weeks a bunch of us spent writing ‘We love you Shaun’ hundreds of times on hundreds of sheets of paper, all in the hope that Shaun Cassidy would one day come to our school. We had as much fun counting how many times we’d written the message in our rounded, loopy adolescent handwriting as we did imagining that he might one day reward us with a visit.
The first club I ever joined boasted a membership of two 9 year old girls who briefly idolized Suzi Quattro and spent hours after school putting up posters and playing Devil Gate Drive on a portable record player, repeatedly. It didn’t last long but left a significant impression on us (and on our bedroom walls once we stopped idolizing Suzi and took her posters down.)
At the moment I participate in online word games with people I’ve never met and number among the financial members of an Australian political party – a dwindling resource apparently. Being the mum of twins, I continue to belong to a national association for the parents of multiple births. I was once involved heavily in my local chapter’s committee and attending events. These days I love reading the newsletter and doing nothing else.
I’m also very much part of my local church and, as someone who knows Jesus as my king, helper, rescuer, teacher and brother, I’m also part of the worldwide church which just means his gang.
People see ‘church’ as a club – and often in a bad way. Many see church as a closed social group – designed for insiders and inaccessible to outsiders. This is a natural confusion because the Bible was originally written by people of the Jewish faith where there are insiders and outsiders. Church is very different.
Most people see church as a building as well, which is exactly not what is described in the Bible.
These are the ways in which the church is a club:
- All the members follow one person – Jesus – and have this is common.
- The club is defined by its passion. Love is the most important thing.
- The club has a handbook. It’s the Bible, a collection of 66 individual writings including letters, law, history, poetry, dreams, warnings, singing and Jesus’ words. There are a few rules but if members break them, Jesus will pay the fine. It includes some instructions for how to conduct club meetings but there is a lot of leeway.
These are the ways in which the church is not like most clubs:
- No specific meeting place, day of the week or time of day, just wherever makes sense for that time and situation.
- No specific uniform, just whatever makes sense etc.,
- No specific language, just whatever makes sense etc.,
- No specific members, … you get the message.
- Club officers aren’t elected, they are chosen by God and given what they’ll need in order to do the job.
- Anyone can join or just come along if they want.
- Membership is about following Jesus. Nothing else is required.
- No money need ever change hands.
- Someone who’s been in the club for one day is of the same value as someone who has been in the club since birth.
- Someone could be a full member without ever having visited the clubhouse but they would really want to if they had the chance.
- It’s possible that, apart from Jesus, the members have nothing in common with each other.
- Nobody wins anything except spending forever and ever with Jesus, the ultimate winner.
Anyway, like the women I saw on the train platform, being part of a club ought to bring joy and the pride of being part of something good.
I like church. Maybe, if you’ve always dismissed the idea of checking out a group of God’s people, you’ll decide to have a look? Remember it’s not about the building and nobody is an outsider.
*The Red Hat Society in case you were wondering.
** I’ve nothing against winning, except when it becomes the only acceptable outcome.
*** If the activity is weird-and-harmful it’s no longer a club, it’s a crime.
The feature image is of the play, The Club, which I studied at high school in 1982.This was the cover image on the copy I used.