Consider the bargolia.
A breathtakingly beautiful flower, with petals so vivid that the word ‘purple’ really doesn’t do the hue justice, the bargolia is also ridiculously hard to grow.
The pH balance in your soil needs to be just right; they need just a little bit less than full sunlight, and a great deal of water – but not too much. Off-the-shelf plant foods will help, but to make this little fella thrive, you really need elk manure – decomposed for 3¼ years, according to one expert. The bargolia is an unbelievably beautiful – but equally unbelievably fussy – flower.
And sometimes, I think my faith is sort of like a bargolia: it won’t grow and flourish without just the right conditions.
You see, I’m a pretty avid Jesus Freak these days, but for the first seven years after my baptism, the seed of Christ in me lay ungerminated. I was baptized about 11½ years ago, but it wasn’t until maybe four years ago that I really decided to join the ranks of disciplehood.
What changed? I moved to a new town, and stumbled into a really awesome church: Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Calgary.
Great preaching; thriving kids’ programs; excellent music (and I’m referring to the days before I joined the team); a lot of people my age and younger, whose taste in movies, TV and humour are compatible with mine: my family and I very quickly felt at home there, and what a blessing it’s been to be part of this church.
It’s pretty safe to say that I needed this kind of community to get me started in earnest in my faith. I needed to connect with the reality that it is possible to enjoy church – the place, the services and programs and the people – before I could truly want to be part of the Body of Christ.
Once that took root in me, I flourished pretty quickly. When I look at all the ways I am or have been involved in my church, it doesn’t seem possible that I’ve only been attending there since the fall of 2006.
And the speed at which that transition has occurred is both exciting and a little scary.
What if, next month, I found myself transplanted in another city – one with a church like my old one.
Is my faith a mile wide but only an inch deep?
My old church was great in its way – a fantastic organist and choir; they sang all the old hymns from my childhood and used the Book of Common Prayer. They even sang Communion most of the time, and chanted the Psalms!
But I didn’t have much in common with most of the people who attended there, and while all the ceremony was beautiful, it didn’t feel accessible. Additionally, the church was as in need of volunteers as every other small church is, but it really didn’t need the skills I had to offer. It also did its best to accommodate young families, but there just weren’t enough kids to make it worthwhile to devote many resources to children’s ministry.
Holy Trinity, by contrast, gratefully makes great use of what I have to offer. And for the size of the parish, we’re blessed with an enormous population of young children. There’s real effort to accommodate young families, and still a significant complement of older folks who share their wisdom and passion with the parish, too.
A lot of that is true for a great number of churches, I’m sure. But ours is quite unusual within Anglicanism, in that we’ve attracted a significant number of non-Anglicans over the years. While we’re true to our denomination’s liturgy, there’s no expectation that we kneel (there aren’t even any kneeling benches attached to our seats. There are no prayer or hymn books to fuss with — everything’s projected on the wall via computer. And at Communion Time, both wine and grape juice are available in both the little shot glasses and common cups/chalices/goblets.
These are just a few examples of an overarching theme: for my money, it’s the perfect blend between traditional and modern; it retains all of the essential elements of Anglicanism without being tied down to many of the trappings and forms that can sometimes get in the way of true worship.
Ultimately, I think it’s the best church around, and I thank God for it.
And if I suddenly found myself unable to attend that church for whatever reason, would my walk with God lose a lot of its momentum?
It’s not that I’m worried that I belong to a church, rather than belonging to God. My relationship with Christ is real. But if I suddenly had to join a church that isn’t such a great fit for my personality and my wants, interests and needs, would I be as engaged in the community? Would I find it tough to continue to grow in Christ if I were suddenly transplanted into different soil?
Hence the bargolia analogy.
I don’t think God is satisfied with faith that’s like a bargolia, or even the low-needs, but slow-to-grow cactus. He wants our devotion to Him to be like a dandelion – able to grow and thrive in any soil conditions – constantly renewing itself through the sowing of new seeds in all directions. (Our non-Christian friends would undoubtedly have great fun with the comparison of our faith with a nefarious weed, but that’s my metaphor and I’m sticking to it!)
I pray that I’m a dandelion, not a bargolia. But secretly, I hope I never have to find out.
Peace be with you.
Writer’s note: There is no such thing as a bargolia. I don’t know squat about flowers, but I really wanted to use this metaphor. I couldn’t find unanimity on the Internet about what flowers are the hardest to grow, so rather than provoke some sort of green thumb rumble, I decided to concoct a flower with the right characterstics. I like to think of it as floretic licence.