a Body of Christ comes together to give a welcoming hug*

Not actually a hug.  Physical contact with strangers who are trying to welcome me can be awkward.

This is essentially an anecdote of a few conversations I’ve had recently which I kind of liked and then probably with some reflection tagged on the end.

In the Methodist Church the majority of our acts of worship are lead by authorised (volunteer) lay people who move around the churches in their area taking services.  These people are called  Local Preachers.  They go through a training programme and then are “accredited”.  They then hold that office for life, even if they are no longer actively working.  At major milestones we recongnise the valuable work that these people do in the church with Long Service Certificates which are usually presented during a service.

2 Local Preachers in Bangor are up for Long Service Certificates and their service is on this Thursday, which is also Aldersgate Day (Aldersgate deserves a separate post. Watch this space). I was undecided whether or not to go to the service; invariably it will be a fabulous service; a good mix of recognising these individuals hardwork and also that we all have different gifts and are called to use them at different times, and it being on Aldersgate would just add something very nice to it, but I am also cooking tea for a friend so we can hang out before we leave for the Summer!  So I was in two minds whether or not to go until Sunday morning.

One of the Local Preachers is a senior academic at my uni, and a lovely woman with whom I get on very well.  Her husband often helps out with the recording of services and the audio and was down to do so for the service coming up.  They occasionally invite one of her research students along to Chapel events (she last came to our beetle drive!) and this student is coming to the service, so the husband asked if I could cover the AV stuff so he could sit with the guest, because it would be utterly unfair to just abandon her in a strange situation!

I said yes.  Of course I said yes.  This is what team work is about (and yes, in part I see Chapels functioning as teams).  By someone else taking on his responsibilities in that service it freed up the husband to get on with the vitally important role of being welcoming and hospitable to someone coming into a strange setting; what a fabulous expression of what church should (in part) be like.  We talk so much about churches needing to be welcoming, and heck they really do need to be. It is a tough thing to achieve and requires a lot of hard work and some tricky balancing acts, but I see this as a clear example of when we got it right, because he recongised what it would mean for the guest to be coming, and because the chapel worked sufficiently as a team to be able to accommodate that.

Now all we need is for something similar to happen about the catering, which is still a bit dubious!!

In other news: I am doing a guest blog for The Spectacled Bear who is just utterly fabulous, I’ll post a link to it on here when it happens, but go check out her stuff before then, it’s pretty fab!

In other other news: Even better than me guest blogging for her, she is doing me a guest blog!  That will be far better than any post I ever publish, so keep your eyes out for that one as well!

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A Note on Church Growth

This will be short and ranty. Apologies

I have been to so many meetings, gatherings, conferences, services. festivals, chats and other events at levels that range from informal and in a front room to national events inc. large festivals where I have been told that, in general, the church in the UK is in decline.  And I believe them.  There are some not-too-manipulated stats that kinda point that way, and it certainly matches my experience.  yes there are exceptions and yes we MAY have stemmed the tide, but the picture ain’t great.

So let me say this about those churches that are seeing an increase in attendance and/or membership (the two being different, given current culture).  They should be praised and celebrated.  As long as we’re not literally bribing them with a life time’s supply of chocolate, pizza or a house, and they come because they want to, then we should be praising and celebrating growing churches.  They’re doing a tough job better than most.

So let me also say this.

I do not care if the person leading that church is a man
I do not care if the person leading that church is a woman
I do not care if the person leading that church goes hunting and eats raw steak
I do not care if the person leading that church likes to talk about the feelings and drink herbal tea
I do not care what the person leading that church wears
I do not care if that person is married
I do not care if that person is single
I do not care if that person has had a divorce
I do not care if that person has re-married
I do not care if that person straight
I do not care if that person is gay
I do not care if that person is somewhere else along a spectrum of gender and sexuality

If that person has the qualities of a Godly leader and the church they serve is growing
WE SHOULD BE PRAISING AND CELEBRATING.