November Letter

9 11 2013

November begins with All Saints Day when we remember our ancestors in Christ who have gone before us.  Without them, the exceptional and the ordinary, we would not have a Christian church today.  Celtic saints like Patrick, Columba and Aidan left their homes to travel and bring the love of God to others.  16th century saints risked death to change oppressive religious structures.  18th century saints like John Wesley took on the establishment to bring faith, hope and a better life to ordinary people.  The church of the past encourages and urges us to face the challenges of being the church now and in the future.

Last month I saw a bit of what that future might look like.  My book Creating Community has created interest in the wider Christian world and I was invited to speak at an event in Swansea, South Wales.  The missing generation in many of our churches is the 18-35 age group and the younger members of several Swansea churches have got together to do something about that.  “3” is an experimental event which happens three times a year.  There are three speakers, three discussion slots, three performing artists and it ends with a three course meal.  The big idea is “to engender a creative environment in which to challenge, stimulate and explore what the church of the future might look like.”  It seemed to be working as there were about 75 people there.  Here are a few things I noticed about a church event which is successfully reaching younger people.

* Technology.  There was a professional quality sound system and three screens.  One in three people in the UK now uses an e-reader.  High quality sound and vision in our churches is not a luxury but an essential.  One of the “speakers” was actually a video blog by a teenage girl sharing her experience of experimenting with different forms of prayer.

* Participation.  People didn’t just come to be talked to (though they soaked up what I had to say).  Each talk had space for discussion and response.  One of the screens was to allow people to post instant comments and responses via Twitter.

* Creativity. The main music was from a professional DJ.  He used pre-recorded sound loops of rich atmospheric ambient music, over which he played live.  This provided a setting for spoken meditations on passages of Scripture with words and images on the screens.  At the end you could hear a pin drop.

* Hospitality.  The “church” was set up with tables, chairs and sofas.  There was a café offering tea, coffee and cake all afternoon – very good cake, produced by a local social enterprise project.  There was quality without extravagance in everything as befits a Costa Coffee shop culture.

And although this didn’t call itself church, that’s exactly what it was – there was worship, prayer, Scripture, teaching, togetherness, and in the middle of dinner we broke bread and drank wine to remember Jesus.

Our churches have great riches from the past but to be faithful to the Gospel we also have to discover the riches of the present time and culture.  “3” is doing that.  What can we do?

Best Wishes

Simon


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