Wednesday, 22 April 2009

3) A blend of the two

To all you dedicated followers of my ramblings can i offer my profound apologies for the lack of input. My job - as a Methodist Minister - has been causing me (and others) a lot of stress recently and so any thought of discussing or thinking about the future of the church has made me want to run away yet alone blog about it.

In my previous two posts i have continued this idea of the church as a work of cross-stitch. I have suggested that one option for the future of the church is to unpick the old design and completely replace it, another is to just keep things as they are, close our eyes and hope for the best - this incredibly innovative option the Methodist church appears to have adopted - but there is perhaps a third way.

As i consider my own working context and the churches that i minister with i am struck that neither of the previous options is workable. To leave things as they are fails to address the varying and transient needs of our community and the culture in which we live. Also though, to ditch everything without reserve will only seek to alienate another section of our community not to mention the people in the congregations without whose contribution anything new won't be possible.

I favour an option which i viewed in Utley, just outside Bradford in Yorkshire. This is a multi-congregational church without being massive. There are four separate congregations meeting (i think) on Sunday morning, Sunday eve, Fri eve and Tues morning. These congregations are individual, separate entities within the life of one church. They all are part of the one parish church yet exist as independent congregations. People are asked to buy into and commit seriously to one form of church - and one form only yet to view it all as part of the building of the Kingdom through this one umbrella local church community.

Sunday morning is fairly typical of British churches, the evening more contemporary and relaxed. Friday eve is totally different aimed at young adults and centred around food, film, discussion and Tuesday morning at parents and toddler bracket.

Within my own structures of the Methodist Church - it would be possible to release people for service and ministry within the context of their own congregation only. It perhaps frees people from the obstructions of wanting to progress and be creative and other people stopping that.

Surely this is one way in which the old pattern can continue as long as it does and the new is able to thrive and grow without the restrictions of traditional church but with the safeguards and experiences that comes from being rooted in an established church.

As the old pattern remains, new patterns are able to be stitched over. This will probably mean that in years to come the old pattern will be unable to be viewed - although glimpses of it may poke through from time to time, but is that such a tragedy. If God moves us to another phase of church and ministry which happens to look different surely that is OK?

I guess though some will be impatient. To unpick everything and re-stitch a new pattern is cleaner, more slick, and probably quicker than trying to stitch a new pattern over the top of an older one. There will be times in when new stitch is being sown over the old where it will be difficult, where the blend of old and new colours clash, times when the needle will find it easy and hard to get through the gauze. But isn't it far more in the nature of God for him to stitch a pattern that is eclectic and even at times looks completely random only for it to contain the genius of His innovation, creativity and planning.

If any of my church leaders at Wheatley Lane are reading this, then what do you think? If anyone else is reading what do you think? If God is reading - what does He think?

Come Holy Spirit, stitch something new in our midst and help us to work out something of what you are doing.


PamBG said...

I'm obviously not a member of your church, but I think that multi-congregational churches are probably the only way that we are going to get more people worshiping in our church buildings.

My observation is that many congregations fiercely - and sometimes heatedly - resist this option. Good on those who dare to try it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gareth

Very interesting articles which we could discuss further - hope we find time to do so.

Carole Eldon
Wheatley Lane Church