PARISH CHURCH – Has it got a future?

I love wandering round fishing villages and old harbours. A regular sight in these places is that of the discarded and no longer in use fishing boats. Their paint is flaking off, the engine and machinery are rusted over. They have been abandoned well above the water line and the salty smell of fish drifted away years ago.

Is this the future of the parish church?

Well, not if the ‘Save the Parish Church’ group has its way!
I am actually very sympathetic to this movement and I agree with one of their basic ideas; that ever since the emergence of ‘Mission Shaped Church’ over seventeen years ago the planners and missioners of the church have rather neglected the ‘Parish Church’. Throughout all these 17 years as a Missioner and church growth person I have had an inside seat. I have attended the conferences, befriended the major personalities and have been invited to contribute to some of the key books and events. I have supported Fresh Expressions, Church Planting, Pioneer Ministries and Resource Churches but I have always felt the neglect and rather undervaluing of our wonderful Parish Churches as a bit of a sadness.
So far, so good then for the ‘Save the Parish Church’ movement. The problem is it never says how we are going to save it. Do we just leave it to continue on its merry way, do we go cap in hand to the Commissioners and ask for a hand-out or reduce parish shares which surely means that the well-off will be saved whilst the poorest go to the wall.

Along with fishing boats (both abandoned and still operative) another favourite metaphor of mine is good old Marks and Spencer, to me it is like the CofE with baskets. Like us they have been struggling with decline for years. Except they seem to be experiencing a real upturn recently. They attribute this to a ‘Never the Same Again’ overhaul.

‘Save the Parish Church’ looks a bit like an ‘Always the Same Again’ continuation. I have yet to read of evangelism, youth work and growth in any of its pronouncements and I can’t think of any other way of saving the Parish Church. Historically all the great times of growth and revival in the CofE, be they evangelical or catholic, have come through a newly confident preaching of the Good News. I would love us to ‘Save the Parish Church’. I am equally motivated at the thought of planting lots of churches, at the sight of hundreds offering themselves for confirmation and fruitful evangelism in our schools, uniformed organisations, Messy Churches and Parent and Toddler groups.

‘All I have is hope’ said John Lennon as the peace movement took off in the 1970’s.

All we have is hope.  Not in ourselves or in our churches but in our God. In the Father of our churches, in Jesus, the rock on which we build, and in the Holy Spirit, the inspirer and equipper, all of course encapsulated in the concept of grace.
News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.

Acts 11: 22-23.

‘Your Kingdom Come
Your will be done’

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