Letter from the Vicar (May 2008)
It’s a great honour to be the vicar of a Church under the patronage of the Holy Trinity, because the Trinity is the highest and most astonishing of all the Christian doctrines.
It is also, of course, one of the most difficult to explain. Have you ever tried to explain it to children?
The worst part comes after you’ve finished the lesson and then check out what they’ve actually learned. Generally it’s a lot different from what you tried to teach! Usually they tell you that there are three Gods or that God has three faces or that God the Father has had two children, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We can laugh, but often it’s no better with adults. Our understanding of the Trinity is pretty weak! And that’s just as true in our church, Holy Trinity, as it is among most Christians.
Down the centuries many minds greater than mine have tried to get to the bottom of the Trinity and have never really penetrated it. So perhaps, rather than trying to fathom the inner meaning of this great mystery, it would be better to think about its implications. So what does belief in the Trinity mean for the way we should live our lives? The most important thing the doctrine of the Trinity shows us is that God is not a kind of isolated individual, living in remote splendour. God is like a family or a community. One in three and three in one, not just one on its own nor three on their own, but three inseparably bound up with each other. That’s the pattern for us to follow. Believers in the Trinity must live their lives reflecting the life of God himself. God’s life is a perfect balance between the one and the many. And we need a similar balance.
The Christian life is not just about a perfect existence for me as an individual. But nor is it only a complete loss of identity merged together with all other Christians. Christian existence has something positive and important to say about us as individuals. Each one of us is infinitely valuable and important. But at the same time we must live our lives in community, we must be united to others as part of the Church, of humanity and ultimately of the whole created order. Life together in society is not just a temporary inconvenience, it is part of the way things are and will always be.
In practice that means a willingness to be involved with other people. In Church life the social aspect is not an optional extra but a crucial part of being a Christian. Christians are a united body, we are a pilgrim people. We must act and work together. We are called, simply, to try to get along with each other, no matter what our race or class, irrespective of age, people of different interests, concerns and tastes striving under God to be at one with each other. This should be true of our Church.
We believe as Christians that we actually share God’s life. The Trinity is a life of perfect community, a kind of perfect family. We are called by his grace to show that life to a world in great need of improvement in the way we live together as individuals, nations, peoples and races. This is the vocation of all Christians. We who belong to this Church must be particularly committed to being the people of God the Holy Trinity in a world where his life and his light is sorely needed.