I grew up in Streatham, South London, a beautiful place with large commons, wide roads, a unique high street and endless summers. I loved living in Streatham and thought I knew the place inside out. I even joined the nostalgic Streatham Balham and Tooting memories group which celebrates the past glories of these wonderful halcyon places. Every now and then someone posts an obscure, ‘Where am I?’ photo and we all try and name the place – often getting it wrong.
‘Where are we?’ was the big question we discussed at last night’s excellent church meeting; some bright spark of course answered, ‘Hatchlands Road’ but this question begins an honest assessment of the current state of play at RBC and how healthy we really are. It’s crucial that we are honest and own where we are as we begin to grasp the length, depth and breadth of possibilities and vision for our future. A recent survey of Baptist churches revealed that despite some churches flourishing and growing 1/3 of churches are in marked decline, whilst another 1/3 are remaining stable …… but for long? We are collecting feedback and data from every aspect of church as we ascertain whether our focus of time, energy and resource is in the right place.
Three immediate actions lead from these discussions. Firstly, the CLT are inviting all wider leaders and coordinators to join them in a ‘learning hub’, meeting with leadership teams from other churches to explore whole life discipleship. Secondly, Mairi and I hosting a few conversations with interested people asking, ‘How can we help RBC grow into a welcoming, vibrant, inclusive community?’ This will be a series of meals at the manse, starting after Easter. Thirdly, I’m setting up a Sunday review group to feedback on how we are doing on Sundays; my background in retail reminds me that we should always review and improve our shop window, which is what our Sunday mornings are. I’d love that group to include people of all ages (including Mettlers) and backgrounds.
Some of the groups last night expressed the desire to move out of our comfort zone and perhaps even out of the building a bit more often, which led right into our community pastor Miranda updating us on her involvement with the Cromwell Road community. We’d like to spend a Sunday morning service litter picking and tidying the estate with the residents, as well as help them put on a summer fair in July.
We would also like to appoint two new elder /trustees to join our new leadership team. Our hope is that our leadership team will reflect the wonderful diversity of age, ethnic background and gender that we have at RBC, and I reminded folks that Mairi was a deacon at 23, I was a Pastor at 28.
What’s the missing ingredient? Prayer! We must be praying, to discern where God is at work and to ensure these are not just ideas and strategy. Here’s a thought I didn’t share last night, I’d like to explore using our Sunday evenings as more of a prayer gathering, enjoying our hour together following some Celtic liturgy which incorporates song, scripture, silence, space and most importantly supplication or prayer.
Where are we?
Where are you?
How would you answer?
See you Sunday for our Mother’s Day service when Mairi will be preaching on ‘life’s first cry’.