Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Disappointed? Moi?

So our Mission Community is in the middle of a Mission Week which is happening because we want to encourage our Churches to discover more about the Bible and to bring others to hear about the Bible too.  And what has the response been?  Well, to be honest, lukewarm.

A recurring theme at our PCC meetings has been 'how do we get more people in?'  yet when something like this is offered it seems that very few people are willing to make the effort of attending these special events, into which has gone a huge amount of work, and even less effort is being made to bring others in.  I have to say that the four events we have had so far have been excellent, very good quality, thought provoking, enjoyable and inspiring.  Our joint service with the puppets of Honiton Community Church (The Chuppets) was one of the best Family Worship Events I have ever experienced.  Our Mission Community Evensong was enjoyable and well received.  Our first Lunchtime Bible Study was a brilliant summary of the book of Genesis and gave an inspiring overview of the beginnings of the Israelite Nation.  Last night was a much appreciated overview of the sources, transmission and compilation of our Bibles led by yours truly and the response from those who were there was excellent.

From those who were there.

An obvious phrase really, but those who were there were mainly from the village in which the event happened with very few people willing to travel and learn more about the book we Christians consider foundational to our faith.  And no one brought friends or neighbours to hear.  I wasn't too worried about bringing others in yesterday evening, but I know that many in our churches would have benefitted from some Biblical learning.

It doesn't help that some parishes have scheduled meetings which clash with these events.  Having asked questions about Mission and growth, some churches can be very good at saying (in their actions if not in words) "but we'll carry on in our own way and hope that growth 'just happens' "

On most days I let this kind of thing wash over me, but for churches which are anxious about declining numbers, and who are constantly making demands on their ministers to do things in such a way that 'brings new people in' there seems to be a fair amount of apathy around.

All of this is is adding to my thought processes about what is important in these Churches, because at present most of our focus is on Sunday services which aren't growing (except for All Age Worship once a month) and general moans about the Vicar not visiting enough people!  I could dedicate another post to that but I am not going to!  I am more and more convinced that if our Churches don't start thinking and acting very differently to how they are at present then Clergy such as myself will simply be managing decline and eventually allowing churches to be the lovely, pretty, unused buildings that they are in danger of becoming.

In a few weeks we will be having a Mission Action Planning meeting to discuss our future in these five parishes - this comes three years into my time here as Vicar.  I suspect that the involvement that people choose to have, or not, in this next week - and the effort they are willing to put into our Mission Action Plan will have an effect on whether we find ourselves preparing for a gentle spiral into decline, and how long I feel able to can stay here when the evidence seems to lean towards many being happy to let the life of the Church here slip into oblivion...

1 comment:

Stuart said...

That is a very real danger for many parishes; namely, supervising decline.