Saturday, 10 January 2009


I find I’m still a total beginner in church consultation and communication and in balancing whether ideas are human plans made in our own strength or things to which we’ve been genuinely led attentive to God’s alternative possibilities. You’d have thought that I’d have a professional handle on at least some of those things by now, but there it is.

We held our first First Sunday Thing on Sunday. We’ve brought together St Michael’s and St Nicolas’ to share one Family Service on the first Sunday in each month, a Family Service with a totally different style including activities in different parts of the church for the first half hour then brought together in a simple short act of worship. I posted on 16th December about creating a Blog for it.

We’ve prayed. We’ve paid attention to what is going well and less well in our well established Family Services and in our newish monthly Last Saturday Thing. We’ve paid attention to what other people have explored in ‘fresh expressions of church’. A Working Party began to look at a blank sheet of paper in August. We took suggestions to Church Councils in September, and we floated ideas with a few families (although we should really have found the time to do so with more). We outlined proposals across the front page of our pewsheet in October. Our Shared Ministry Team planned in November. We put out a lot of publicity in December. We began in January.

And now we are seeking to be open to the feedback we receive and the feedback we know is out there but which we’ll only receive at second hand or not at all. Most of it seemed to go well, some of those we’d hoped would come didn’t, some people said nice things on the day, and a thoughtful anonymous commentator on the Blog explained why it was not as bad as he or she had feared. But a Church Council meeting on Thursday also revealed more explicitly those we’d aimed it at who hadn’t appreciated it and even reports of those who said they hadn’t really known what was going on.

So we’ve made new plans for the second go in February which try to take account of all this, and I surprise myself by being overwhelmed by the feeling that I don’t have the first idea whether we should have prayed and consulted much more widely and effectively, whether we are being too clever by half and ploughing own furrow, whether the level and nature of the feedback simply goes with the territory, and whether it is developments like this to which we are called.

The Bishop of Grimsby keeps saying that churches grow where there is good leadership, and our churches don’t seem to grow.

Meanwhile, during the week, the low deep early morning sun lit up a willow tree next door to the Old People’s Home just down the road from my house as if it had put the tree on fire.


Sceptic said...

When I wrote under this name following the first 'First Sunday Thing'it was an attempt to express how I felt both before and - to a lesser extent - after the event. I thought perhaps it was the way some others felt as well but the fact that 20 or 30 people are comfortable with a pattern of worship they have lived with, in some cases, for many years doesn't make a genuine attempt to reach others wrong.

As I think more about this I realise how much I take for granted. I am quite happy with our established service but am becoming increasingly aware that many of the population find it either irrelevant or incomprehensible. Even people inside the church can find it difficult. I recently heard of someone who mourns the loss of the Family Communion not because they brought a family along but because it had a simple message instead of a 'complicated sermon'.

The Bishop probably observes correctly when he says that growing churches have strong leaders but that doesn't mean that churches that are yet to grow have poor leaders. I happen to believe that in West Grimsby we are particularly fortunate in the calibre of clergy and lay leaders we have.

Worthwhile achievements don't come easily and God often leads us along a difficult path. We are told that if we listen we will hear His guiding voice but most of us would wish he would speak a bit louder.

Keep trying. The work is far too important to give up on.

Peter Mullins said...

Thanks, Sceptic, for your thoughtful and supportive response, with which I've only just caught up.

You are also right about one detail: with our new approach to united first Sundays we have allowed a designated 'Family Communion' each month (and also the cycle of united service on fifth Sundays) to lie fallow, but both are being talked about, and I'll certainly feed what you say about the pitch of sermons into those discussions.