The pandemic has had many horrific effects. But it has perhaps given us some opportunities. Forcing many of us to put our lives on pause, it has given us time to allow our imaginations free reign over what differences we would like to see as we move back to a more normal lifestyle. I’d like to ask you to give free reign to your imagination as you think about the following scenario.
Imagine you are in Broadstone after the pandemic and a stranger comes up to you to ask a question. First, he tells you he has been living in a remote part of the world for most of his life with only a Bible to read. He knows nothing of our culture, but he tells you that he is a Christian and needs help. Perhaps the conversation would go like this:
“I’d like to find the Christian Church in Broadstone. Could you help me, please?”
“Yes,” you say, “but which one are you looking for?”
“The Christian one.”
“There are several – St John’s, St. Anthony’s, the United Reformed, the Baptist and the Methodist Church to name just five.”
“I want the one which follows the teaching of Jesus Christ”.
“Well, we all follow His teaching.”
“Oh, I see. I expect that all of your churches are full all of the time, so you have to have five. Is that it?”
“Not exactly, no.”
“Well, perhaps your churches have so much money that they don’t mind having five buildings to look after and I suppose they still have plenty of resources to provide help to anyone in the community who needs it.”
“No, it’s not quite like that either.”
“Maybe you have so many leaders and preachers who lead your worship that you have to have five churches to give them all a chance.”
“Well, can you explain to me that if you all follow the same Lord Jesus Christ, why you have to have five separate churches.”
“It’s a long story ….!”
I think you might guess now my hope for the future. That, if that same person were to ask those same questions in a few years’ time, he would hear about a Christian Church in Broadstone (maybe still with several buildings) which worked together to show God’s love to the whole community. There would be integrated activities for children and young people. There would be family activities – social, educational as well as spiritual. There would be shared ministry and shared pulpits, so those clergy we have would be less stressed.
Worship would not be held in every church every Sunday morning because people would be willing to join their fellow Christians in perhaps a slightly different form of worship from time to time. Some churches might have moved their service of worship to a different time of the week for those who work or have other commitments on Sunday. At least one of the services would be live-streamed on Zoom each week for those not able to make it to church – and it would be from a different building each week.
The sense of a vibrant outgoing Christian community would energise the existing congregations and draw in new faces from outside. Our finances would be on a sustainable level and there would be a financial surplus so that we could respond to needs in our community and the wider world.
Who knows, we might even find better ways of using our buildings. Some of them, such as ours, already offer a place to meet over a coffee. If we were working with the rest of the Broadstone Christian community using all of the buildings we have, could we offer more to people who are lonely, to families, to children – daily playgroups, nurseries, accommodation for clinics, after school drop-in for children, homework clubs, youth groups, counselling and debt advice services? Could we open up our buildings to the groups who are already trying to provide such services? Churches could become community hubs as well as places of worship.
We already have Churches Together in Broadstone. We don’t have to start from scratch on an ecumenical journey to revitalise our Christian community in Broadstone. If we have a vision, we can go step by step, and who knows where our faith will lead us?
Do we dare to dream?