Monday, 25 May 2009

Unexpected results

If you open the church doors wide it is likely to be the excluded, needy or vulnerable who come in. It isn’t an original thought, nor is it a universal rule, but I’ve heard the same story about it twice in the last couple of weeks.

First from Elaine Watkinson. She is the most impressive and engaging of the Methodist lay ministers in the norther half of old Lincolnshire. She is the Youth Worker in this Circuit. She was talking at a recent seminar on clergy safety.

The Circuit was aware that many of its twenty or more churches had one or two young people but that this never created the critical mass for any individual church to provide for them or retain them, so it decided to open up the side door of one of the central churches as a place in which they could gather and in which events could take place. But the people who came in through the door were mainly disaffected young people from the neighbouring estate. It was from these beginnings that the now well established Side Door Church emerged.

Secondly from Liz Jackson. She is the most impressive and engaging of the Anglical lay ministers in the southern half of the old Lincolnshire (although my judgement is biassed, being the godfather of one of her children). She is the animateur of different diocesan outreach projects. She was talking on video in the latest diocesan podcast.

A church on the most frequented footfall on the main high street in Lincoln was chosen as the place in which to experiment with a fresh expression of church by being opened as a prayer café on a weekday. But the people who came in through the door were mainly the homeless adrift in the City Centre. It is from these beginnings that a new quite different project is emerging.

Meanwhile, I’ve always been fond of this representation in St Michael’s of St Michael and of the small naked figure holding on to the foot of the cross. Michael has beaten down the dragon beneath his feet (the story from Revelation of the defeat of Satan) and he is now showing the result: in the final scales the dragon (looking a little put out, I always think) cannot outweigh the benefit of simply clinging to the cross.

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