Thursday, November 15, 2007

Churches and change

City Centre Churches Together meeting tonight at Tabernacl Baptist Church, right opposite the huge hole that contains the SD2 construction site, amazingly changing from day to day as new structures if steel and concrete reach up to join the forest of giant tower creans in the late autumnal sky. Tab. is a lively church, but has been caught on the hop by the invasion of its world by the many changes being imposed upon their domain by redevelopment which takes away from them free access rights, and overshadows their building with this massive shopping mall and pedestrian zone designed around entertainment and leisure of a decidedly non-church nature.

I was rather disconcerted and disappointed to discover when I reported on the research project that my colleagues present were quite unclear about whether or not they had received, let alone filled in the questionnaires sent to them. I know how clergy get overwhelmed by mail, but really, had we got all the addresses wrong? Fortunately I was able to had out spare copies that I had taken with me - just in case. It makes me wonder exactly who are the 30% of questionnaire recipients who have returned their forms by the deadline, and how we're going to get more responses, and how useful the final outcome will be. At the moment the research team are being rather un-forthcoming on the outcome so far. Is all this work worth it, I wonder?

Tonight we received a letter from the Pastor of Tredegarville Baptist Church that they no longer intended to be part of the City Centre Church Together. A previous Minister has encouraged the congregation to look towards the city centre, and his successor a conservative evangelical, has led them in the opposite direction. It was brief and
formal. There was no quarrel or policy dissent expressed, just disinterest. Sad to say, there are really deep unspoken disagreements between church communities struggling with similar issues in a similar context about the nature and purpose of the Gospel in the modern secular world. It's easy enough to agree about the need for witness, service and proclamation, the need for compassion and reconciliation and forgiveness to fill the world, but little common understanding about the real nature of authority, partnership and how living together with differences.

One crumb of comfort. At yesterday afternoon's meeting, I met the son of the former Tredegarville Baptist Pastor, who told me with great enthusiasm that he and his family had all been received in to the Church in Wales and were greatly enjoying a measure of stimulus and spiritual fulfilment in a suburban parish which they'd not been able to find in the conservative evangelical congregation they'd previously been part of.

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