David Endicott thinks about the future shape of church.
Many of us over the past few months of lockdown have, I am sure, had the opportunity to reflect about many aspects of our lives, our relationships, our faith and indeed the future of the Christian Church both locally and further afield.
Paul appeals to the church in Corinth to be united in mind and thought and that there should be no divisions (1 Corinthians 1:10). There has, apparently, been a tremendous upsurge in church attendance, online, during the lockdown – as much as 25% of the population, it has been reported. This compares with 5% who attended physically before the lockdown. Surely, there is a message here – the church is not perhaps providing the spiritual support which seems to be so desperately needed. Another reason for so much online attendance may be that people who have never attended physically do not feel ‘threatened’, self-conscious, embarrassed etc. Should not the church be presenting a more welcoming, friendly and less ritualistic face?
There are already some innovative services such as breakfast church, messy church etc. but perhaps we should be thinking even more of the form which church services and gatherings take, both on Sunday and throughout the week.
Our community in Broadstone is not unique but here we have five Christian churches of different denominations. At the risk of sounding naïve, I ask the question – do we still need denominations? Should we continue to call ourselves Methodists, Anglicans etc?
Our religion is Christianity – we are Christians. In John’s gospel it is stated that Jesus prayed that believers may be brought to complete unity (John 17:23). Jesus is at the centre of our churches – what would he think of our lack of unity now? It is natural that we may want to worship in different ways but this could still be achieved under the umbrella of a united church.
Methodism has a proud and distinguished history but the world has changed so much in so many ways since the late 1700s. There have been some slow moves to church unity but is not the Covid-19 pandemic a wake-up call for us as Christians? Can we rise to the challenge?
The long term effects of the lockdown on all of us are likely to be very significant. The Christian church will have the opportunity of playing no small part in our recovery.
When all this is eventually over, wouldn’t it be wonderful if physical church attendance continued at 25% and more?