In 1816 at age 19, Mary Godwin became Mary Shelley the second wife of the great romantic English poet Percy Shelley. Two years later in response to a challenge from Lord Byron she wrote a short ‘gothic’ story which eventually became the published novel, Frankenstein - the new Prometheus. (Prometheus was the mythological Greek god who created humans.) Her story centred on a doctor of chemistry, Victor Frankenstein, who obtained various body parts from cadavers at the local morgue and stiched them together. In some way (which Mary does not specify) Doctor Frankenstein makes his creation live. However, contrary to his wishes, his hideous looking 8 feet tall monster has a mind and will of its own, and in rebellion teaches itself to read and talk. Repulsed and rejected by everyone who sees it, this nameless body sets about a campaign of revenge on humanity - violent, destructive behaviour and ultimately murder. In great anguish Frankenstein tries to restrain and then ultimately to destroy it; but all to no avail.
Mary drew a great deal of inspiration from the magnificent poem by John Milton, ‘Paradise Lost’, which Milton built from the biblical story of the creation and fall of mankind. For those who know the account of creation and mankind’s subsequent rebellion and descent into evil, many parallels with human history can be identified in Shelley’s story. But also, for those with a wider experience or history of the Christian Church, it is easy to see parallels and draw metaphors from the Frankenstein story to the Body of Christ.
How many times have we experienced churches as ‘congregations’, body parts gathered together into one place, but not united (Col.3:14) – like the monster’s limbs and organs before Frankenstein sewed them together.
There are too many churches where people have some social connection but there is an absence of Holy Spirit life flowing between the members - like Frankenstein’s creature before it was made to live.
You may know of churches where some of the members are joined and alive but those parts which should be alongside them connecting them into the larger body, are dead, atrophied, sickly or missing. So the live parts can never properly function within the whole body.
Sometimes all, sometimes a few, of the parts are not submitted to the control of the Head or the wishes of its Creator? There are congregations where a leader or some section of the members are running their own agenda (for political power, personal advancement, financial gain or social change) which do not represent Christ well either in the local church or to the wider world. Such motives almost inevitably end up being destructive, just like the monster.
And finally, some churches, like the monster, feel rejected by the wider society and so isolate themselves, developing a victim mentality. I grew up in a church that suffered just this malaise, but ironically felt spiritually superior because of it.
Scripture teaches us that Jesus created the Church as Christ’s Body. He is its head and each one of us is merely a part. We must be joined together, made alive by the Spirit and operating under our creator’s directions and the authority of his delegated representatives, if we are to present Jesus faithfully to our generation in every nation. (Read Col.1:18&24, Col.3:13&14, 1Cor.12:21 and 1Cor.12:27).
What each of us chooses to say and do will either help create another ‘monster’ at the Belfrey or help build a strong body among us to pursue the vision of transforming York and the north of England? Can we be helpful not critical, encouraging not undermining, supportive not destructive? I believe we can and will.
“Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.’ And with that He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’.” (John 20:21&22)
'We must be joined together, made alive by the Spirit and operating under our creator’s directions and the authority of his delegated represent-atives, if we are to present Jesus faithfully to our generation in every nation.'
'Can we be helpful not critical, encouraging not undermining, supportive not destructive? I believe we can and will.'
Paul and Angelita Ogle are part of the Belfrey Groups Steering Team. They also lead the Belfrey Group 'Germinators'.