What we do 

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The Team Vicar writes... 

“What sort of church…?”

This is the question being raised widely as we look to the future in a world that’s been dominated by Covid-19 for more than a year.

Some people want church life to ‘get back to normal’ as fast as possible - whether that’s services in the buildings or social events up-close-and-personal. Other people have found they rather like Sundays without services in draughty places, and they prefer worship online followed by social interaction with friends while walking the dog.

While the Government has produced a ‘roadmap for recovery’ from the pandemic, and the Church of England nationally regularly adapts the updates given to Ministers, Wardens and others who’re responsible for Risk Assessments and so on… how do we work out - beyond these practicalities - what we want our church to be like in the coming months and years?

And, even more importantly, how do we discern what sort of church God wants us to be now?

It is the desire to find answers to both these questions that lies behind Leicester Diocese’s Shaped by God Together process.

I make no apology for writing about this again, because it is important that as many of us as possible are aware of it and contribute to it in whatever way we can, even if ‘only’ by praying about it regularly. Here’s an extract from Bishop Martyn’s recent letter to Clergy, Lay Ministers, Deanery Synod Reps and PCC members:

“During recent months over 200 lay people and clergy from across the diocese have joined in initial Conversations to explore a wide range of possibilities for how we shape our future ministry, diocesan finances and care of church buildings. … The work on exploring possibilities for our future ministry has enabled us to develop three possible options, or ministry models. There is much work still to be done on these models, and no decisions have yet been made. I am very keen that everyone in the diocese has an opportunity for their voice and perspective to inform the decision that we will make later in the process.”

There will be more information very soon about how we, in the Melton Team Parish, will engage with the prayerful Local Conversations that the Bishop has asked every church to hold to explore the possible ministry models with as wide a group of people as possible. 

Meanwhile, as well as at Deanery Synod level, our DCCs and other groupings have been sharing insights into how our discipleship has deepened (or not) during the past difficult year and what we’ve learnt from this that might influence the future ‘shape’ of church life.

Personally, I’ve had lots of feedback both from those of you missing meeting in our familiar church buildings and equally from those who tell me that your faith has become much less ‘building-dependent’.

While Zoom and other online ways of ‘being church’ have their disadvantages and exclude some, just as many people (particularly the elderly/housebound/and those who struggle to be present at a certain time on a Sunday for work or family reasons have told me that they’ve felt more included in ‘doing church’ than ever before.

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Several of you have communicated to me that we “must” continue to make such good use of the internet even after all the coronavirus restrictions have disappeared. Just this morning someone emailed to say:

“Although Zoom presents its own challenges/limitations, I have been very grateful for the Church’s willingness to embrace it during Lockdown. …I do hope we will continue to use Zoom as a tool to share Faith and Fellowship with others across the parish, whom we would not otherwise meet.”

Again, church members have telephoned or written to me expressing how much they appreciate the time and care taken by those who’ve printed and delivered to them week by week copies of my Reflective Worship because they cannot access such things online.

In the light of all this, we must surely recognise that it would be wrong to lose much of what we have learnt and gained, and therefore church life should become a hybrid of what we knew and loved previously, alongside new methods of engaging with our faith and growing as followers of Jesus.  But we must do this in ways that are workable and sustainable as well as Spirit-empowered and Christ-centred.
 
While many things about the future shape of the church remain uncertain, what has become clear at this stage is that we should not - even if we could - try to go back to exactly how things were pre-pandemic. Covid-19 has changed our world, our society, and none of us is the same now as we were a year ago.

It is absolutely right that we also co-operate with God’s Holy Spirit in what is always a continuous process of reshaping Christ’s church so that as a Body we are fit for His purposes in today’s world.

So whenever you and I say in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom come”, let’s be open to His guidance about what the Lord of the Church wants His Church to be and do now in the bringing in of His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
 
Every Blessing,

mary The Revd Mary Barr.
 

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