Tonight I was listening to the president of the local CAMRA group (a group encouraging the sale of ‘real ale’ and to saving the British pub). While many have been bemoaning the 36 or so pubs that close every week (I think), he said that honestly he thought that a few more might actually need to close. He gave the example of his town where there are 16 pubs, 5 are closed, and likely 4 more need to close. That way the village could actually sustain the 7 or 8 that would be left.
Standing beside a minister friend of mine (who is from the URC), she and I looked at one another and obviously had the same thought. So, I said it – maybe this guy should come and speak to our churches. This does seem to be a parable of sorts for our churches.
I have found that here in Great Britain (and from what I encountered in the US), closing churches is not wanted on the agenda. We refuse to stop and look around and ask the questions about whether or not a church is needed in a given area; questions about resources spread too thin, other churches in the area (even if not of our denomination), and why we feel that church is needed (and question why we yeild to those who simply want it to be there because it always has).
This has been on my mind recently as the connexion wants to look at what is sometimes called ‘Super Circuits’. It takes existing circuits and then combines them. I have heard others say (and indeed said this myself) that this sounds like another desperate attempt to save the institution, but more or less keeps things the same and adding another layer of management (the old circuits then become sections – each with a leader while creating a ‘super circuit’ superintendent). I would not mind the idea of ‘larger circuit boundaries’, but I don’t favour simply combing circuits as is. With increasing retirement and decreasing numbers of people offering for the ministry, adding that to the issues of resources spread thin in a local area, I see this continuing the trend of putting more work on ministers and then adding them to a larger geographical area.
I think it’s time, no matter how difficult the issue is, that we truly investigate how many buildings we need and how we might consolidate our resources to work for the kingdom of God.