Fitting the bill
All Saints' Vicarage, September 2001
The whole of the Church of England is having to reconsider its way of working. Changing social patterns, decline of church membership in this country, an increasing number of happily retired clergy to support with pensionsÖ all are challenging members of the Church of England as to how we should Ďbe Churchí. How is God calling us to be disciples of Christ and messengers of the Good News in our time and culture? Do our inherited patterns of the church organisation and its ministry really fit the bill in the 21st century?
I suspect that the answers to these questions are going to be more radical than we can imagine in the long term. While we have been able to continue largely as we have been used to being - and getting away with it - there has been no sense of urgency to press the questions upon us. We have only just begun to look them straight in the face and we all have a long way to go.
Not surprisingly perhaps, it is the financial situation of the Church that has made us all sit up and listen. The national press has been reporting the state of affairs over recent weeks - although the situation should take none of us by surprise. Church House in Westminster has made severe cuts to its staff that have been extremely painful for all who work there. A few weeks ago the Wakefield Diocese announced that it would have to cut something in the region of 25 posts immediately if it were to avert bankruptcy. Bishop George has recently written about our own diocesan finances in the Summer issue of See.
If lack of money has brought us to our senses, then we should be thanking God! Thank God for waking us up to the fact that we need to listen more closely for his voice and to look for his guidance as we seek to serve him in mission and worship in a new culture. We need a new shape.
You will have heard or read of plans for partnership between All Saintsí and St Peterís. Those from each of our PCCs who have met together agree that a move towards unity would be a step towards this new shape of ministry in the local area. There is much to be thrashed out in terms of detail and legal procedures but, most importantly in the long term, we all have the opportunity to reassess our approach to mission and ministry - and to make a start in discovering Godís new shape for us.
We are bound to notice the difference. We would be turning our backs on our responsibility to share the burden if we thought that we need not change at all. The hard challenges for St Peterís may well be different to those for All Saintsí - but we will all be affected. There will be advantages and blessings too, along the way, so we neednít expect that it will be all for the worst.
So how are we to face the future? I suggest four ways at this point:
Godís people have nearly always been on the move - ever since the days of Abraham (just think about it for a moment!). Letís make the most of the journey.
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