Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Church plant daydream

I sometimes daydream about planting a new church here on Mersea.

It would need at least a dozen people to get it going - people who were seriously committed to a path of discipleship and spiritual growth.

It would meet once a week to do the Acts 2.42 stuff, but not necessarily on a Sunday morning.

It would also meet at other times for broader fellowship, worship and teaching - understood as supplementary.

It would be a group of sojourners, tent dwellers, maybe meeting in a home or hall, maybe even meeting in an historic church sometimes.

It would pay a fair proportion (pro rata) of the parish share, but not be committed to the financial upkeep of the historic site.

It would have a cell group structure and mentality. Nurture would be done through small groups (up to half a dozen persons). It would also multiply as a whole when it grew to, say, forty people.

It would have autonomy over its manner of life; its form of worship; its expectations for social service and behaviour.

It would not have autonomy over doctrine and sacramental discipline - in other words, it would remain Anglican. It would operate under the oversight of the Rector of the parish (well I would say that wouldn't I?) who would join in with the Acts 2.42 part, but not the rest - unless asked. It would accept the Lambeth quadrilateral as a framework for faith. However, it could sit very lightly to the Anglican acquis communautaire. It could be mostly independent of a) the inherited plant, and b) the structure of committees and processes. Although no group can operate without the formalities for long - the static latching is what enables survival over time rather than being dependent upon the passing emotions of the group.

Occasionally it would gather with the other Anglicans - and indeed the other Christians on the island - for broader worship and fellowship.

Worth exploring further?

12 comments:

  1. I have lovely dreams like that, but then I worry that I am becoming an East German communist, wanting to dissolve the people and elect another one!

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  2. Two comments:-

    (1) If I lived there I'd love to do this.

    (2) Why not do it?

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  3. great dream, but does it have to be Anglican?

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  4. No reason why it couldn't be ecumenical, especially with the Methodists, but I tend to see one of the besetting idolatries of our time as a rejection of all authority :)

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  5. I knew you were a house church man at heart! This takes me bakc to the heady days of the charismatic renewal in the 70s / 80s. Wonderful times!

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  6. I think you're right about the authority - but it's really important that the authority is delegated from the incumbent, not from a sending congregation. You need structures within the PCC to ensure this - guaranteed representation, for example. Sorry to drone about structures, but trying to get them roughly right helps. Otherwise the sending congregation decides it has rights over how the plant behaves.
    Ooh, came over all serious there for a minute.

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  7. Ah, church planting! What a dream! ;0)

    Is what you're proposing here Sam really any different to what is already happening in your Parish? It seems you're going to end up with a Mother/Daughter plant? And then you'll end up with a replica of what you are already doing. If that is ok, then fine, but if you're looking to church plant to pioneer something different...

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  8. Joe - several thoughts: one is that there are 'limits to growth', or 'glass ceilings'. If these are not taken account of then, inevitably, a particular congregation will stagnate (I'm thinking of Bob Jackson's work on this). So the mother/daughter relationship is fine - eventually the daughter grows up and reproduces in her own right. I do believe that the gospel, left to itself, is inherently fertile. Another thought is that this needs to be something emerging from the bottom up, not from the top down, I suppose all I'm doing in this post is thinking out loud and saying 'this might be possible'. Another thought is that the 'something different' emerges over time. Nobody had a clear vision of what our 9.30 service would become, but I (and some others) had a clear sense that it was what God was calling into being. As my favourite Eugene Peterson quote puts it 'work out what God is doing and then get out of the way'. And finally yes - I do have twinges of jealousy sometimes about your new job :) but then I'm also pretty sure that I'm where God wants me to be, hopefully for quite some time to come.

    PS Eileen - yes, I would view the incumbent's role as the channel of authority, not the wider local church (tho' the PCC would need to be involved in the way you suggest).

    PPS Justin's first comment is very apposite, as well as being funny, and something of an answer to Graham's #2.

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  9. I would like to think you will be in Mersea for quite some time to come too. I believe you are a real blessing to this community.

    I agree with you that we get a sense of what God is calling us to do and then we get out of God's way. So sounds like this could be a sense of something God is seeking to do. I'm not a particular fan of mother/daughter model, but that's not to say I want to scrap it altogether, just like to ask questions of it.

    And I believe you're right, the Gospel is inherently fertile, so let we have to let it do its thing!

    A few people have asked me what the church will look like in Newton Abbot, to which I respond, "I don't really know!". I have a sense of God's calling and a sense of his desire in Newton Abbot, but I have no idea what this church will evolve in to. And that is very exciting! Don't be jealous, you're in a very exciting place. :0)

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  10. A certain fellow was shipwrecked on a desert island. Some time later, rescuers found he had built two churches. When they asked him why, he replied, "That's the church I go to, and that's the one I DON'T go to." SDR

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  11. Sometimes I want to give up waiting for a member of the clergy to lead us in doing something like this and take it into my own hands, which would no doubt be a disaster but at least I tried!

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  12. Ok then- re my comment (2)- get a bishops mission thingy or ecumenical agreement- send a team and place them under oversight/support. Release a group with no expectation that they will start anything for a year/years. Only ask them to find places where people gather and stay there and listen.

    Then and only then (re: Justin's comment)- shoot all dissenters and teach people to say '4 legs good, two legs better' (pace George Orwell)...

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