Wikio - Top Blogs - Religion and belief

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Churches can survive and thrive in changing and challenging times

The Evens Evening at St John's Seven Kings, which was my farewell event in the parish, was a very special evening for us as a family. I gave a presentation of the recent East London Three Faiths Forum Tour of the Holy Land, there was a delicious bring and share supper, and there were words of thanks and presentations to Christine and I.

Here is the speech I gave at the end of the evening:

St John’s is a diverse and busy church in a diverse and changing area. This makes it an interesting and dynamic place to be. When that is combined with committed, caring and creative people in the congregation and community, the parish provides opportunities for ministry which is engaged and engaging, innovative and traditional, memorable and mundane.

Over the past eight years together we have: celebrated anniversaries (Contact Centre, Mothers’ Union, 110 years of the Church); been inspired by the examples of those no longer with us such as Dorothy Hart, Doreen Gullett, John Toll and Barbara Trump among others; maintained our work with children and young people; drawn new people into ministry in services and leadership; welcomed new people into the congregation as a result of our community engagement, the occasional offices of baptisms, funerals and weddings, and through people moving into the area; contributed to successful community campaigns for much needed local facilities; organised art exhibitions, bazaars, community information events, concerts, light opera performances, literary panels, a Praise Party, a wide range of social & fundraising events, table-top sales and a talent show; supported the setting up the Sophia Hub social enterprise support service; worked closely and well with our friends in the Seven Kings Fellowship of Churches and the local cluster of Anglican churches; and expanded the range of community groups using the Parish Centre.

As a result of this shared missional activity, St John’s is well known in the borough as a well used and well loved community hub; a church that is open, welcoming, engaged and engaging. We have achieved this together in a challenging context for the borough’s churches which results from the changing demographics in the area. The multi-faith nature of this parish means that Christianity is becoming numerically a minority faith in the area bringing significant challenges for maintaining church buildings and congregations as a result. While understandably, but unhelpfully, this can result in a defensive attitude developing among Christians, overall at St John’s we have been open to engagement and dialogue with our neighbours of other faiths through our support of Faith Forum and Three Faiths Forum events and the work of the Sophia Hub and Scriptural Reasoning group. In addition, although there has been resistance, we have faced up to the changes needed to address the financial issues which arise from the challenge provided by changing demographics and have worked our way together to a place of renewed financial viability. We are, therefore, an example of how churches can survive and thrive in changing and challenging times and locations.

None of this has been achieved without debate and stress, conflict and challenge both for you and for me. All of this – continuity, change and challenge – has contributed to the ministry we have done and the foundation for the future which has been laid.

St John’s will be a hugely interesting and attractive parish in which someone new can minister. It has been a privilege for me to be your minister for the past eight years, to get to know and grow in friendship with you all, to face the challenges and take on the opportunities of this area, and most of all to do ministry together; to share in activities which benefit the local community, bring diverse groups together, develop understanding and community cohesion, bring people to Christian faith and to a deepening of their faith.

Thank you for the opportunity to have been part of all this together with you. Thank you for all that each one of you contributes to the ongoing mission and ministry of St John’s. Thank you because of the impact that that ministry has individually and overall. Thank you for all that I have learnt and for all the ways that I have developed and grown through being here. Thank you to all those who have shared ministry and leadership with me here and thank you to all those who given me particular support, help and encouragement in the time that I have been here. I pray for God’s continued rich and deep blessing on you as individuals, congregation, church, parish and community.   


Bernadette Farrell - Christ Be Our Light.

No comments: