So what might the church of God’s future look like? Perhaps a snap shot might start to get the imaginative juices flowing. I’m not offering a one-size fits all blue-print, but a few fringe thoughts to get the cogs turning, so here goes:
On Monday Morning, upstairs at the local Pub, a group of professional women and men meet to read the scriptures, relating them to the ethics of their workplace. They pray together and support one another. One of them is a priest, who nurtures and leads this group each week, before heading off to work in an office for the week… A group of single parents meets on Tuesday morning with some elderly widows, one of whom is a deacon, to offer mutual support, have their kids play together, and practise Christian meditation in the midst of a busy week…. Later that day, a group of people with special needs, and their carers and friends, gather in the church hall to sing songs and share fellowship, and to pray for one another as they face the joys and difficulties of life… On Wednesday afternoon, a group of restless young people meet to read the scriptures with some theologically trained middle-aged mentors. They plan ways to raise awareness of injustice and to be activists for good in their local communities… Sometimes the Bishop pops in to offer them encouragement – she has plenty of time, because she’s a self-funded retiree, who has a pastoral ministry to the flock, and is not weighed down by administrative concerns… A congregation of children and their parents meet on Thursday afternoon. They share a meal and Eucharist together, the kids play some games, and they all read the bible together, before breaking off into groups to explore more deeply, each at their own level. A married couple with children are both priests for this congregation, and an older married couple are deacons… On Friday night, a group of creative artists open a café in a warehouse just out of town, where people of all ages can come and explore spirituality through music and art and multimedia. They only share the Eucharist a few times a year, but everyone contributes something to the liturgy from their own creative impulses. Their priest is a 26 year old bare-footed sculptor with dreadlocks, but nobody seems to mind… On Saturday evening, a classic sung Eucharist takes place in the old church-building. People from all sorts of backgrounds show up, including some people who feel marginalised in society, and are looking for a safe place to meet with God… From time to time the local resource priest meets with the leaders and facilitators of each of the 26 congregations in his care to offer advice, accountability and encouragement. Part of his job is be on the lookout for opportunities to plant new congregations, and to encourage and raise up new lay leaders, deacons, priests and bishops. There is a vague rumour that, once upon a time, there were these things called parishes, each with its own building and resident, full-time, paid priest. For the life of them, these Christians can’t imagine how it would have worked.