Fr Congreve

Of cordiality between Churchmen, and especially between Societies of Churchmen separated today by Differences of Spirit and Method.

Fr George Congreve SSJE
The title is couched in the language of a century ago and the problem it faces is the mutual distrust of missionary societies, but this short essay by George Congreve SSJE has a striking contemporary relevance.

Cordiality – sincerest delight in each other’s successes, sincerest sympathy in each other’s troubles.’He begins baldly: ‘Cordiality is not the same thing as toleration.’ The government will tolerate the opposition, but ‘between associations of self denying men whose object is to extend the Kingdom of Christ… one would look for nothing less than cordiality – sincerest delight in each other’s successes, sincerest sympathy in each other’s troubles.’

Nor is Cordiality the same as justice – to which in our contemporary debates so much appeal is made. ‘It is not mere justice that we look for from God, nor is it justice mainly that sinners forgiven owe to one another. Christian society is founded on the basis of the generosity of God in Christ and the return which we owe to God and our brethren for Christ’s sake is cordiality, that is the gift of the heart.’ Moreover ‘we have no heart to give in the highest sense, until we are in the heart of Christ and He lives and loves in us.’

Divine Generosity is the key to missionThis sharing Divine Generosity is the key to mission. Mission is only effective ‘in proportion to the energy of the Holy Spirit, the joy of Grace, expressed by the cordiality which missionaries have to give to the souls they seek.’

Congreve goes on to apply this to the missionary societies of his day, giving examples of cordiality between individuals of opposing Societies. A pointed reminder to us to show cordiality to those alongside whom we minister but with whom we disagree.

The self expenditure of sympathyHe then looks to the ‘grounds of Christian cordiality,’ and finds them in the writing of Moberly, whom he quotes: “It is not official courtesy that makes character dilate, but the giving of the heart.’’ We reduce ourselves if we “shrink from the self expenditure of sympathy, and prefer the sundered to the corporate life, hiding away ourselves for ourselves within ourselves” On the other hand, “never is the good man so completely, so royally himself” as when he offers himself generously to others. Thus is Christian sympathy much more than what the world knows by the term.

Distant Courtesy not enough
Congreve goes on to contrast cordiality shown in scripture and the apostolic church with the ‘distant courtesy toward one another of churchmen of diverse traditions’ he saw in his day. How much more now, when courtesy is so often stretched so thin and traditions so divided? Congreve finishes with a paragraph which cuts to the heart and challenges to action:

‘There is often cordiality enough, and of the true sort, among its own members within each of our distinct groups; what we still wait for is the overflow of love towards persons and institutions outside our own mystic inclosure, who do not echo our phrases, but who do love what we love most, and live by the same Life which is also our Life.”

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