Everybody’s way too busy to read long blog posts at Christmas time, so I’ll briefly describe a couple of more variations on the cluster theme.
One Church, Multiple Locations
A few years ago I ran across something called Cariboo Presbyterian House Church Ministries. This is a “church” in the interior of British Columbia that consists of between 16 and 20 house churches. Located in remote communities, the network is served by three ordained clergy whose main job is to equip local lay people to lead home based gatherings.
I’ve always thought this could be a brilliant model for the United Church to explore as churches become more isolated even within high population urban areas. It would require a big shift in the understanding of ministry. Lay people become the providers of hands-on ministry, and trained clergy become trainers and equippers rather than those who “run the church.” But in the long term, wouldn’t that be a healthier mode of being church?
Here’s their website:
Multiple Churches, One Location
This is apparently a common model in Australia where congregations tend to be a lot smaller than they are in Canada (although we may be fast closing the gap!)
The advantages of this arrangement are obvious. Instead of each church struggling to maintain a building, several congregations move into one facility. It represents better stewardship and would create immediate financial viability for many struggling churches.
But it would demand an equally big attitude adjustment. Congregations would have to get over their proprietorial attitude to “our church building” and really learn how to share and cooperate (not a bad idea.)
But each congregation would have to have a sufficiently clear understanding of their own unique identity that they wouldn’t be tempted to “all just get together and make one church.” The value of this model is that it would make the coexistence of distinctive communities financially possible.
Why We Do This
With those thoughts, I’ll close the 2014 version of Mission, Health and Vitality. I pray that, at this season of the year, we’ll remember why we keep doing this in the face of dwindling numbers and public indifference.
It’s because we worship a God who does not exist as a remote “First Cause” or a vague spiritual idea, but who actually entered into the world in weakness and humility to reveal the power of self-giving Love. As Eugene Peterson puts it in his Message version of the Gospel of John, God “moved into our neighborhood.”
If we could proclaim that good news effectively, we would not be wondering how we can keep our churches vibrant and alive.
I want to wish you, the congregations of which you are a part, and those you love a Blessed and Holy Christmas and Happy and Prosperous New Year.