“The Church’s greatest failure of our time has been its refusal to take decline seriously”

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Is the path about to Peter out? Here’s an Article from the Church Times by Linda Woodhead, showing a Church that must face up to reality, or die.

As they didn’t say on Dragnet – “Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts”.

But are we ready for a reality check?

Anon and on

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Photo by NS Newsflash

I’ve just started being the minister of Slaley Methodist Church. As my largest church has grown, some of my smaller chapels have been reassigned, but I have gained Slaley.

This Sunday I had a voucher for a free newspaper, so before my service, I popped into the tiny village shop in Slaley 

The church is 100 yards further on, and I went in to meet the folk, to be followed five minutes later by one of the congregation who said “They told me in the Village Shop that the new minister had just been in”.

There were three people in the shop when I bought my newspaper, I didn’t recognise any of them, I didn’t mention my name, nor was I wearing a dog collar, or indeed anything that would identify me as a minister. They still knew who I was.

I guess you can’t be anonymous in Slaley(!)

Recently, there has been a tremendous amount of publicity about vile Internet trolls using Twitter to threaten public figures with rape.

These horrible attacks show a desire to avoid all accountability, and have used anonymity to bully. Why do people do this? Because they can.

The technology may be new, but the issue isn’t.

Of all people, Jesus said “Don’t be intimidated. Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. So don’t hesitate to go public now. Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, Who holds your entire life—body and soul—in His hands.”

When Jesus talked about how the church should be run, He said “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.”

It seems to me as though there should be no place for unaccountable anonymity in the church – we’re to do things out in the open and face to face. That’s the better way, and the Biblical way.

What do you think?

Please Turn off all Electronic Devices until the Church is Airborne

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Why is it a bad thing to have your mobile phone switched on in church? The standard answer is because everybody should be concentrating on the sermon, rather than playing with their mobiles.

Some churches solve the problem by jamming the signal. Others tell people to switch off – or else:

Yet that misunderstands how we listen, and how we learn. These days, people are not looking for a lecture. They would rather have a guide on the side than a sage on the stage.

There’s a double standard when it comes to new technology. We encourage people to take notes with pen and paper (although who knows whether they are actually distracted and drawing doodles?) yet dislike the use of phones or tablets. It even spreads over to the language we use. Children are either voracious readers, or addicted to technology. It sounds different the other way round.

A (silent) smartphone can have multiple bible translations, note-taking facilities, audio/video recording facilities, and the opportunity to text or tweet the preacher during an interactive sermon.

Perhaps we should go the whole hog and have iPads for everyone.

Can the Holy Spirit only work with old fashioned stationery? Or should we never take any kind of notes in sermons? What do you think?

Send in the Cavalry

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Photo Copyright Jon Bennett

Yesterday’s “state of the art technology”, is today’s ceremonial. However, we’d never use that in combat today – here’s the Household Cavalry on duty in London (above) and Afghanistan (below). Instead we need to be nimble and ready to fight today’s battles today’s way.

I wonder if this could be a metaphor for the church? Are we fighting today’s wars with yesterday’s equipment? Just a thought…..

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Photo copyright Sergeant Russ Nolan RLC
Image 45152674.jpg from www.defenceimages.mod.uk

And the band played “Nearer my God to Thee”

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The latest preliminary figures are out for Methodist Church Membership www.methodist.org.uk/downloads/stats-National-Membership-1213-0513.pdf, and the good news is that they are not nearly so bad as usual.  We’ve been losing 10,000 a year (or a church the size of Trinity Hexham www.hexhamtrinity.com weekly) for the last decade and more. This year, according to the official figures, we *only* lost 2,520. Unfortunately the official figures aren’t internally consistent, and if you add up the numbers of those who have joined the Methodist Church, then take away those who have left and have died, you get a deficit of 5,779. It remains to be seen what the corrected figure will finally be.

Does it matter that we are the fastest declining www.brierleyconsultancy.com/images/csintro.pdf denomination in England? Of course it does. Some people say you shouldn’t measure numbers, but in that case what do you measure? Candidates for the Methodist ministry? (none successfully put forward from the Newcastle District for three years). Quality of theological training? (Colleges closed, leaving us with just two). Quality of material? (The Publishing House has gone bust, twice). Quality of faith of the people in church? (see “Modern Methodism and the Parable of the Talents below).

Whenever I talk about this, the responses are along the lines of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%BCbler-Ross_model in her work on death and dying.

Some folk are in denial and pretend there isn’t a desperate crisis.

 Some are guilty and try to do the same things harder.

 Some are angry, and say that I should keep quiet about the facts, because I’m being negative.

Some are despairing and think nothing can be done, so we may as well carry on as we are.

Some are bargaining, and try doing things which don’t fix the fundamental problem www.southamptonmethodistdistrict.org.uk/development/regrouping-for-mission/getting-bigger/.

Some are philosophical and hope that Methodism will see them out.

Me? I want to do something about it, but the first step to finding a lifeboat is to realise that the Titanic is sinking. What Methodism is doing is not working and anything other than drastic comprehensive change is not the answer. The numbers reach zero in about 2030, the year I retire. Will I be the last one on board?