Today I was on-line at 8:00 am to offer Morning Prayer. This is something we’ve thrown around at Parish Council for a few months. Some of my colleagues launched into it right away when we moved into our ‘virtual’ church life. As it hasn’t been something we do at St. Alban’s, and I think the best way to offer it is Zoom, which we don ‘t have a parish account for yet, I wasn’t in a rush to do so. It is hearing how well it is reaching beyond parish folks that has tickled our fancy. So the tail has been leading the donkey as we haven’t advertised it yet but it has started!
Writing a letter to the parish became an opportunity to put down what I think life will be like for church-world in the mid-future. I put into words what my intuition and heart have been saying for a while: “The Church will not look the same as we have known her. There will be less of a sense of ‘standard operations’ and more diversity in “doing church.”
I sure hope so. Over the last decade we’ve seen that faith communities are kindred, they are family to one another and you can’t close down a family, which is what happens when we decide a congregation is no longer viable and should disperse to neighbour churches. Some are called to do that: to become new life and strength to congregations that are in need of them. And some are not, they have a purpose right where they are and there is no reason to send them off. For most places it is the cost of clergy that weighs down the budget. We used to say it was the buildings. There is some truth to that, but not the whole truth. And the land on which the buildings stand remains an asset in the Metropolitan area that so many others do not have.
Congregations are going to have to imagine new ways of thriving. Ordained people will have to imagine new ways of doing their ministry and earning income (the old ‘tent-maker’ model). I think of old monastics who made cheese and brandy to sustain their Houses. Of the pottery, jewelry, books and posters at Taizé. I wonder about clusters of clergy sharing their ministry to multiple churches, about lay catechists, and small-group learning. I pray we can be flexible enough to allow these differing ways, and more, to develop, and not ask any person to be the engine to make all of them work for us. That is a sure-fire way to getting sick all over again.