This morning was traditional parish ministry at its most rewarding…
- Morning Prayer with a companion (oh, I do so miss having WonderfulVicar there to pray with twice a day, every day)
- A lovely visit to the nursery attached to the Co-op, where staff were hugely welcoming and the children enthusiastic listeners…I’ve been invited to return on a regular basis, so that, together with the Playgroup in the Church Hall, ought to give me the chance to exercise those parts of me that most feel the absence of Little Fishes
- Home Communion to one sheltered housing complex, followed by an attempt to visit a poorly lady in another one – which metamorphosed into attendance at the weekly coffee morning, - thus enabling me to connect not just with the lady who had wanted to talk, but with 3 others who were on my “niggle” list with God
This afternoon I went to the first meeting for ages of the Fresh Expressions group…at which our new diocesan missioner was present. Some excellent discussion, and I found myself more able to contribute than I’d been to date (as the only woman there today, and the only catholic full stop I don’t always find that easy but for once words and thoughts flowed all round, with no one voice dominating and some exciting and interesting thoughts brought to the table)
Helpful distinction drawn between the genuine “Fresh Expressions” (which emerge not from a new sort of attractional model of church, but from deep listening to the community and then a slow journey together towards something that might become church) and “Refreshed Expressions” (eg my beloved Little Fishes, enabled to recognise its identity as "church" after many years of being dismissed as an inadequate route into "real church" which never enabled anyone to "complete" their journey to Sunday worship"…)though it was a tad disheartening to recognise that so many of the apparently “new things” we had rejoiced in were not honestly new at all.
Much of the conversation was around the struggle of living in a transition time…In much of this diocese Christendom still lingers (Ch K, for example, is somewhere where the relationship of community to parish church continues to be strong and significant) so it is very hard to take steps away from the still breathing entity which has represented the Body of Christ for so many of us….but at the same time, we know that everything (EVERYTHING) is changing…that there is no underlying knowledge of the Christian story in most people’s lives…that even within the church (no, make that especially within the church) there is a compelling need to re-examine all our assumptions…to ensure that we really know what our gospel is…what it means to be church…what good news for our context, our people, might really look like. That assumes that our congregations have any sense of the good news themselves…and, moreover, that they are gripped by the imperative to share it…that they are beginning to glimpse God’s dream and to dare to dream themselves.
A far cry from bible stories at the nursery and comforting conversation at the coffee morning?
Well, maybe not…maybe the only way forward will be, as was suggested, the very labour intensive, one to one, exploration based on relationships…
But meanwhile, there is wedding admin (and how!), PCC agendas, parish mag letters, trustees meetings…all the baggage that the parish system has accrued over the centuries..some of which might possibly yet be useful…but equally, might well not.
Lots to ponder as I continue to try to hear both God and these communities I’m called to serve
But…tonight I received a huge encouragement in my vision for family work in Church in the Valley, in the form of a very generous grant towards refurbishing the children’s area, and buying fresh books, musical instruments and other delights from my wish-list. To be given this money in response to my dreaming aloud felt pretty close to miraculous. I hope I’m right in my reading of the facts…If I am, then we may just be going somewhere.