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The videos in this blog are great FULL SCREEN. Click the four arrows button before you click PLAY …

TIME TO GET OUT THE FACULTY APPLICATION FORMS AGAIN! – we don’t have pews in my parish church, but (what do you think?) I reckon we’ll have to dispose of the chairs! Our Growth Action Planning is bringing me to my knees every day. And on every occasion I implore “what are we here for?” – a question addressed first and foremost to the Fount and Source of my life (and of ALL life) – and then echoed dozens of times in my daily encounters with other human beings – some of them churchpeople, many of them not. Some of them women, some men, some teenagers and young children. Some gay, some straight. Some “rich” and “powerful”, some “poor” and “without hope”.

Each and every day I encounter what Richard Holloway calls simply DOUBTS AND LOVES. Each and every day I encounter people who can make neither head nor tail of a Church in / of England that preaches “All are welcome” in the same space and with the same breath put to use in keeping huge tranches of the population either out or “in their proper place”. (Maggi Dawn, among others, has posted observations about the two clerical gentlemen who have recently been in the headlines for their enthusiam for the Scriptural text  “Women submit to your husbands” – that have been described variously as “hilarious” and “tragic”. I’m hard pressed to see the “hilarious” myself.)

Every day I encounter fellow Christians who are staggering along the road beneath the weight of the millstones around their necks. “I don’t believe in closing churches” I hear a church leader cry. Lucky old you I shout back. I DO believe in closing dead ones. I DO believe in a gospel that shouts from the rooftops “stop living the lie”. 500 seater mausoleums are choking the life blood out of the dozen people who sit in so many of them for a not altogether very inviting hour a week, the people who  are pouring their ever decreasing resources straight down the drain of the temple’s voracious appetite … with not a soul willing to challenge the idolatry involved … and a “gospel” that’s so much more to do with who needs to be kept out than with those who ought to be encouraged to “get in”.

I’m haunted, still, by the cruel irony of the sight and sound of the Lambeth Bishops assembled in our beloved Mother Church in England, heartily singing “All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place” – either not knowing, or having “just forgotten for a moment”, or (surely not) having chosen to ignore, the plain truth of that day: that some were not welcome, some were not welcome, some were not welcome in that place.

God help me! I’d love to see every church building in the land packed to capacity, filled with a thankful people, of every race and creed and colour and gender, gathered to give praise to our life-giving, life-enhancing, compassionate, forgiving, welcoming Creator. And that kind of growth doesn’t arise out of box ticking exercises. That kind of growth doesn’t start with an interest in numbers.  That kind of growth doesn’t arise out of “evangelical” proclamations of a “good news” that’s  actually bad news for many people, and that in plain sight. That kind of growth doesn’t arise out of the kind of barking preaching that insists that people must “opt in”.

That kind of growth arises when women and children and men have been helped (by countless gifts and means – churchy and unchurchy) to understand that GOD has “opted in” FOR THEM. God has breathed life into the very dust out of which every atom in the Universe comes into being. And still breathes it. That kind of growth arises of out “two or three (or maybe – “in Christ” an apostolic 12) gathered together in my name” … knowing that they’ve one heck of a lot in their numbers-saturated lives to be thankful for.

Now I guess I’ve no choice but to submit a faculty application for getting shut of our (perhaps 500 and frequently sat-upon) chairs. And I wouldn’t be overly hopeful of having one granted. But I can at least ask “please stop asking me to manage my church” … though I’m NOT completely thick,  and I believe that with customary clarity Nick Baines makes the point about false dichotomies very well indeed …

There are some in the church who wish to divide the words ‘pastoral’ and ‘managerial’. Apparently, Tom Butler is a managerial bishop – and some have accused me of being the same. Well, I see it as a compliment in one sense. Why? Because the dichotomy between ‘pastoral’ and ‘managerial’ is a false one – and a dangerous one. What some people mean by ‘pastoral’ (when asking for it in a bishop) is someone who won’t challenge, who is malleable and won’t interfere too much. But pastoral care begins with getting the administration, communication and ‘business’ right: how do you respect someone who says they care for you pastorally when they then double-book you, fail to reply to letters or emails and don’t do what they promise to do?

A bishop is called to be an accountable steward of the resources of people and stuff/things. He is not called primarily to be ‘nice’ or popular. If niceness and popularity follow, then that is fine; but episcopal leadership and ministry are not good for people who want to be everybody’s friend. The alternative to good management of the resources God gives us is, presumably, bad management. Can anybody show me how bad management equates to good pastoral care?

via Nick Baines’s Blog.

… but really: I feel less called to manage “my” church and more to love her. That’s why I owe a profound debt of gratitude to Fr Roger Clarke, one of the finest parish priests in our diocese, who sent me a link to these stunning videos from St Gregory’s in San Francisco. Perhaps you’ll notice the lack of chairs in the worship space. Perhaps you’ll understand the lack of them, and hopefully sense EUCHARIST going on. Holy Communion. Church growth, with action, and planning.

My wife and I are of one mind: tonight we just sang “Are you going to San Francisco?”. As soon as possible became our shared refrain. As soon as possible. And by the way, we understand now why San Francisco’s Cathedral is called simply and prophetically “Grace”. With all my heart: thanks for the lifeline, brother.

23 February 2010

The videos in this blog are great FULL SCREEN. Click the four arrows button before you click PLAY …


23 February 2010