On Saturday 19th October, 250+ members of the Methodist Church travelled to Westminster Church House, adjacent to the Houses of Parliament, to consult on the latest policy document from the Methodist Church Evangelism and Growth team, entitled God For All.
There was something else going on #SuperSaturday as well – not the football, nor England winning their Quarter Final Rugby Union match with Australia, but the #BrexitMarch and the vote to confirm leaving the EU. (The Letwin Extension denied that possibility until later). What was evident was that the Church must be at the centre of life, it couldn’t take a back seat. What we were yearning for was the Kin_dom of God present here.
What did we do?
Our singing was led by the Jazz Church band, which is a pioneering church at Cambridge Road, Birmingham (where we worshipped dueing our second year of training at Queen’s Foundation). We heard testimonies from individuals, one of whom saw that the numbers attending the rural chapel were dwindling fast but there was still a desire from a core group to worship God. They also wanted, nestling in the Derbyshire Dales, to venture out of the building, to walk or even cycle amidst the countryside. There’s now 20-30 coming monthly to these sessions and a smaller group attending the fortnightly discussion group. There were groups who described their work as chaotic but meaningful desire to worship God – being where the people are.
What did we discuss?
The 250+ members then split into eight separate consultation groups which focussed upon the eight point strategy plan – as seen above. The symbol represents the ‘rings’ within the truck of the tree. These rings are all connected, neeeded, valued but can be described separately.
Which ‘ring’ of the tree resonates with you?
Questions were asked, such as:
Can everyone be an evangelist, or a witness?
Do we have sufficient people to be coaches for one another?
How do you define what Church is, and can we use terms such as “re-seed” to give churches freedom to explore and move on?
Can we accept the term “failure’ in these explorations for new places for new people?
The issues of greater complexity of funding plans can cause the enthusiasm for new initiatives to be rapidly depleted: if ways could be found to allow expertise to be deployed more strategically this might help.
Where can we hear that marginalised voice, the one that is silenced?
Given that the age demographic for the Methodist Church is ‘top-heavy’, can we relinquish that responsbility for leadership and pioneering to the more youthful members?
How do we create a digital presence which is attractive, vibrant and true to ourselves?
Some ecumenical guests were asked to share their thoughts about how the Methodist Church may move forward. Their words clearly were marked “no holding back”…
– Small is the new big. Being small enables that love to be felt, to encourage great pastoral support. Don’t be de-motivated because the groups are small. It all started from small groups.
– The community work you may envisage may cost you the Sunday. This is radical stuff! The work considered might mean that our work is focussed at different times and days of the week. Can we let that happen? Why not?
– We are all witnesses but we may not be all evanglists. This point was not shared by all at the meeting, albeit some verses from Scripture suggest that some are called to pastors whilst others teacher etcs.
– Are we being realistic in our plans: can we consider partnering with other denominations, such as the URC. They are also developing similar plans concurrently with us. We need to stop the denominational division, for that division remains a scandal. May we be one. This isn’t suggesting that the different ways of worship shoud be stopped and we all amalgamate, but that we need to identify where we can all work together and do so.
– We need to be brave to join in where God is working, even though it might be the death of the church, as we see it. Even the Mission Shaped Church Report was originally named “Dying to Live”.
– We are to be Bucket list Methodists. There is a film where two people: corporate billionaire Edward Cole and working class mechanic Carter Chambers have nothing in common except for their terminal illnesses. While sharing a hospital room together, they decide to leave it and do all the things they have ever wanted to do before they die according to their bucket list. In the process, both of them heal each other, become unlikely friends, and ultimately find joy in life. So, being called to be a Methodist should continue, and carry on doing what God calls us to do even if it kills off the church.
– We should not focus upon the scaffolding but upon the work required. Don’t lose sight of our calling and what is needed to be done.
What would you want to say?