January 2017

April 9, 2017

Thoughts From The Cottage

Dear Friends

You cannot have failed to notice that our theme for 2017 is Sharing Faith. It is, of course, nothing new. We have been doing it since Rubery Congregational Church was formed 160 years ago in 1857. Christians have been doing it since around AD30 when Jesus told his disciples to ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’ (Matthew 28 vv 18/19). However sometimes it is good to focus on a particular topic, take stock of what we are currently doing, review our effectiveness, wait on God in prayer and see what he wants us to do and then adjust our programme accordingly, changing our ways and adopting new initiatives. This is exactly what we will be doing and, yes, there will be changes.

One way we share our faith is in practical service to, and in, the local community. By any standard we are reasonably good at this, although there is always room for improvement. Members of our church visit one another regularly and many visit people outside the church. This is not just tea and cake, often it includes taking someone shopping, for a medical appointment or for a trip out. Sometimes it includes practical work around the house or garden or giving help and advice on a concern or issue. We also provide a facility where people come for leisure activities, to meet other people or simply to drink coffee. Our facilities are bright cheerful, clean and welcoming and of course staff on duty are friendly, welcoming and always willing to listen. Whilst this is all part of sharing our faith it is not what makes us a church. Many non-Christian groups and organisations do similar things very effectively.

Another way we share our Faith is through public worship and praying for people in need. In one sense we are good at this with approximately 100 services of worship each year and the regular use of prayer book and cards. At around ten of these services we make a special effort to invite visitors. However in another sense we are very poor at this because we rely on printed publicity with very few people specifically inviting family, friends or neighbours to worship. The prayer book contains few thanksgiving requests and notes of healing and cure are exceedingly rare. This could suggest that whilst we take God seriously when he tells us bring our requests to him we are less serious about God’s statement ‘I am the Lord, who heals you.’ Exodus 15 v 26. When we are expecting a lot of visitors to worship it may well mean that we do things differently in order to make worship more easily accessible to them. This will, of course, mean changes to what we normally do which may irritate some of us or make us uncomfortable. How we respond in such circumstances is crucial. We may feel the need to express our criticism but we must do so in a way that does not detract from a visitors experience of worship or of God. Raising it in Church Life Meeting is probably the best way, raising it on the door or in the concourse surrounded by visitors is totally wrong. I have laboured this last point because it is crucial to the way we share our faith and welcome we give to visitors.

The area we are weakest in Sharing our Faith is the explicit through worship, special event, courses, invitation or conversation. During this year we will have the opportunity to explore and practice all these. Some of us may find ourselves uncomfortable with some of them but it is crucial to support those involved in such activities if we are to be faithful to God and grow as a church.

During the year we hope to appoint a Mission & Outreach Worker, run a course called ‘Life Explored’ and maybe one called ‘Discipleship Explored’, develop new forms of worship, run evangelistic events and engage seriously with non-believers. It will be challenging and exciting. It will change the church, like it or not. It will be hard work. It will be Kingdom building. I’m committed to it – are you?