Friday, September 25, 2009

Changes are afoot........

Jane the children and I have been in the Parish for just over 2 years. In one of my early sermons I talked about the mission of the Parish and remember describing how the motorway junction formed a cross in the parish. During the first 2 years, I returned to the theme of God’s mission in the Parish and we have done some work to more fully understand the parish within which we all live.

Some will remember previous magazine articles about exactly where our parish boundary ends, some will remember putting pins on a map at Pentecost showing where they lived, some will remember me then adding where all weddings and baptism and funerals were all from. Soon after we started a register of who was attending church. You may remember another article about who came to church and were they lived.

Over the first two years I have prayed, read and sought God’s guidance on what all the information means and what we are to do next. At the PCC meeting in September we discussed a document I had written “Towards a Mission Shaped Parish” which brought together all the work that had been done and added some discussion. There was a broad acceptance of the document with a minority unhappy about some of the conclusions.

Key decisions are:

1 Have one morning service at 9:30 at St John the Baptist which will be the focus of traditional Anglican worship in the parish
2 Have the afternoon service at St Katherine’s, within which over time, we will look at alternative worship styles and forms which will appeal to wider and different parts of the population
3 A midweek communion service at St Katherine’s will be held at least once a month
4 Re-organise our money into a parish account

I know not everyone will be happy at these decisions but they must be seen in the wider context of God’s mission in the parish. If you want a copy of the whole report then please ask me,

All churches talk about attracting more people to church, especially the younger age groups, but we often fail to remember the huge cultural changes that have taken place in the last 60 years.

We live in “Changing Times”
• Sunday has changed
• How we relate to others has changed – neighbour and network
• Culture is now diverse and church is often not central in the mixture
• Christian faith is less known
• Spirituality is in, Religion is despised
• Often today we have to start at the beginning
• Greater fragmentation & mobility
o so no one kind of church will do
• A network society with “place” and “territory” weakening
o From “where” to “how”
• Christendom is over
o So the Jesus story is not known
o Culture doesn’t bring people to our door
• Post-modernity
o Tolerance is tops, over personal convictions
o Most agree Modernity is over
o Choice, feeling, experience are in
So religion is seen as choice

Several recent reports/books/pamphlets argue:
1. The existing parochial system alone is no longer able to deliver its underlying missionary purpose
2. We need a mixed economy – no longer promoting one way of being church
3. There are only expressions – previous and fresh
4. All churches need re-shaping in this light

That quote …
“We have to ask whether we are capable of moving towards a ‘mixed economy’ church, recognising church where it appears and having the willingness and the skill to work with it”
The Archbishop of Canterbury in the General Synod, July 2003

Mixed Economy means growing a mixture of inherited and emerging expressions all of which are becoming Mission-shaped

Society has changed – so must we

• UK is becoming more diverse – in many ways
• To be a Church for the nation is a call to embrace the diversities
• No one form of church will do
• Shift from monopoly to diversity

Learning to be a “mixed economy” Church
• We don’t stop all we are doing
• Existing ways, done well, can reach the nearest 40%
• Creating new ways to connect with the furthest away 60%
• A “Mixed Economy” Church is traditional and fresh expressions all facing outwards

We are therefore concentrating on what we do well, and trying to do other things better and differently. These are exciting times and I hope you will join me as we explore God’s mission in the parish and reach out to all.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Back to Allsorts

As I write this, supermarkets have just changed their marketing focus from summer holidays to “Back to School”. As you read this, parents will be cheering as very soon the marketing promise will become reality and children will be going back to school. Children, Teachers and support staff may not be cheering as loudly if they are cheering at all.

For some this will be a new experience, whether as pupil starting out in class or teachers taking up their new posts. Some will be moving schools; some will be starting examination years. For some it will be their final year in school.

Our first Sunday in September we focus on education in our prayers and services. All age Sunday School at 3 PM at St Johns Wadworth continues our theme of looking at the Christian perspective of songs fm the musical Mama Mia. This time we look at “The Winner Takes it All” and how in apparent defeat with death on the Cross, Jesus rose victorious on Eater day. After All Age Sunday School all will be encouraged to attend the Great Big Tea Party in aid of persecuted church world wide.

Few people now realise the Christian influence in the formation of our education system. All denominations in recent centuries working tirelessly to enable the dream of all being able to read and write. Much is unappreciated in pure Heritage terms of our Historic Churches. The second weekend in September from Thursday 10th to Sunday 13th we are taking part in a national initiative of the English Heritage. On Thursday 10th, Friday 11th and Saturday 12th Wadworth St John the Baptist will open in the morning 10-12 and Loversall St Katherine will be open 2 – 4. Refreshments will be available, as will members of the congregation to highlight some of the churches history. On Sunday 13th both Churches will be open simultaneously from 3 to 5 and will be followed by a short act of worship. So please come along and discover the great history on your doorstep.

We can all learn much from the church history and the variety of problems church has faced. Many Christians world wide face persecution daily and this is nothing new. Ever since the church was born at Pentecost, Christians have faced persecution.

In the 3rd century after a particularly brutal persecution under the Roman emperor Diocletian, Christians were ordered to turn over their Scriptures to Roman authorities. Some had obeyed this order. whilst others had refused altogether and suffered torture or death as a result. Many did something in between, such as hiding or fleeing. After the persecution ended, the church had to decide how to treat people--especially bishops--who had turned in their books or fled to avoid persecution.

If a bishop had complied with the order or fled, could he still serve as a bishop once the danger was over? Or if he had lost his authority as a bishop, should he be deposed? Should he be retained but made to do penance? And the sacramental acts he performed afterwards--were they valid? If he had ordained a priest or helped consecrate another bishop, were their orders valid? The church was split over this, especially in North Africa.
The central question was whether the authority of a bishop depended on his personal holiness and conduct, or on the office conferred by the church. Bishop Donatus (hence this heresy is known as Donatism) and his followers had argued that the personal holiness of individuals was what validated an office. A lapsed bishop or priest, therefore, no longer kept that authority.
A famous Bishop of the time, Augustine, on the other hand, took the view that church authority conferred in the consecration and office of a bishop held true, even if the bishop’s personal purity fell short of ideal. Such a bishop ought to do penance, but his acts as bishop were valid and carried the church’s full authority. And the orders and authority of anyone ordained or consecrated by such a bishop were valid. Augustine won the argument and this view is still the official church position today that a Deacon, Priest or Bishops actions are not in validated by their subsequent lack of personal holiness as they duties are carried out for God as officers of God’s church. God’s Church and we must remember it is God’s Church not ours, is bigger than any individual, whether it be Deacon, Priest or Bishop.
That does not mean Vicar, Priest, Deacon or Bishop can do as they like but it does mean that their actions as officers of the church still stand if they do go “bad”.
I started this article with a “Back to School” theme and I end it with a “Back to Church” theme as the last Sunday in September is “Back to Church Sunday”.
For Many of course church attendance is mere history itself and there are many reasons why people have stopped coming to church but if you used to some to church and have stopped, then think again, we want you back!
If the church has offended you in the past then please accept my apologies on behalf of the church. No human should stop anyone going to church, whether it is their past actions or ongoing hurt. If a vicar/priest/deacon/bishop has done something then come and talk about it and let’s try and sort out the problem.