Growing disciples in an age of busyness

I had the great privilege of spending a few days alongside a community of ordinands at Central Theological College in Tokyo during my time here. The college itself felt to be a symbol of the history and potential available to the NSKK (the Anglican Church in Japan) more widely, with its huge space to accommodate the, as yet, unknown.

A number of people I have encountered have said that the NSKK is shrinking, both in terms of membership and clergy, and needs to think more widely about growth strategies. Whilst it feels like this is an issue that may be pertinent to a number of provinces and dioceses in the Anglican Communion, and yet the ways in which growth is often understood – typically by what can be quantified – concerns me a great deal.

I found myself reminding my hosts of Jesus’ ministry: how his twelve disciples became eleven after a huge betrayal and the crucifixion – and yet modern Christians are the legacy of such humble beginnings. Despite the logic, against the odds, followers of ‘The Way’ grew in large numbers…but why? What made such growth possible all those centuries ago, and yet seemingly so difficult to achieve now?

There is something about both modern British and Japanese culture which boasts an element of entitlement to all things material. All things are possible in our societies – from electronic baths to robot servers to control of household appliances from smartphones. In my view, people within our societies have never been so busy and yet we are given (for a price!) so much to help with that.

One question which keeps coming back within all of these musings is ‘What does the Good News have to offer that is liberating within our tired, over-pressurised society?’ Put more simply, what different way does the Good News point to? When membership of a church means taking on the running of an aspect of church life, volunteering to help with children’s groups, planning the annual church festival or bazaar, and being added to the coffee, reading and prayer rota; what aspect of this new life is liberating? It has struck me that possibly churches have ceased to be attractive to working people because they simply do not have time to participate in all that they are expected to.

I remember trying to justify to my priest why I could not be involved in a fourth church activity as a full-time secondary school teacher who regularly needed to work between 50-60 hours a week. He did not understand and thought that I ought to speak to my line manager about my workload if I was not able to find time for this one other thing. Incidentally, there was no conversation about whether I was gifted for this one other thing or called to it!

So, how can the Church be more relevant to the people it serves? How can it offer liberation from the pressure that we are barely able to see much of the time, due to busyness? Equally how do we move away from the cycle we seem trapped within of serving the church (building), rather than the church (followers of God) serving the wider community?

My hosts heard me refer back to prayer so many times whilst I was with them, but it is so important. I was tasked with praying for between two and three hours a day for each day I served within the NSKK, and through that diligence I have grown in the depth of my relationship with God and noticed God changing my outlook….this example from Jesus is surely the first place to begin?

Mystery of God

#641 #sundayworship #orthodoxchurch There was a strong sense of the #mysteryofgod in this service – it was beautiful and so confusing at the same time. It is good to be taken out of #comfortzones every now and again. 

Endings 

#593 Today was the last day of my #placement and the last opportunity to gently guide this church cat out of the church! #endings are difficult, especially as it seems that this is the first of a long line of endings for the next few months. #richblessings #thankful 

Christ in you and Christ in me

#553
Community
Community church
Community church in context
Community church in context with Christ at the centre
Christ in you and Christ in me
Christ crucified and died – why?
To collapse the corrupt, cold and contemptuous
To carry those who are cleaned out, companionless or crying out
To give courage to the collective
regardless of class, creed or citizenship
We needn’t have anything in common
except that all were created and configured with one image
That of Creator, redeemer and sustainer
Christ in you and Christ in me
Claire, Charlie, or Chris
Cruising in an old cortina or a classic convertible
In church, clinic, college, even the House of Commons
At Christmas, Candlemas or crucifixion
Chef, carpenter, civil engineer or cleric
Council house, cottage or country manor
in Chester, Cupar, Cardiff, Coventry, Chichester or Clitheroe
All form the collective, the church
Christ in you and Christ in me
So why do communities come a cropper
Contaminated by crime, cruelty and contumacy
Cascading, collapsing into churlishness, condescension and discontent
Charity is exchanged with cupidity
Collegiality converts to a disconnect
A chink in our cityscape
With conviction we clutch our comfort blankets, careful not to catch
sight of concepts or commoners who cast confusion
Christ in you and Christ in me?
Christ at the centre, context of church in the community
Church or community
Church?

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Take your robot to church!

#396 #preparations for the #sundayservice on #day14 of #placement saw me packing a #robot into the car…I’m beginning to wonder whether I might be losing it a little?! #allageservice #visualaid 

Placement take two!


#383 Today has been the first day of #placementtaketwo…it’s very different from my initial vision of busy urban setting as it’s getting a little close to being rural with a village feel – could take me ever so slightly out of my comfort zone! All that said #day1 has involved an 8am #eucharist as sides person with some unforeseen complications, a 10am Eucharist, #baptismvisit and #evensong. Today I #pray for all of the people I have met – I #thankgod for the conversations that I’ve had and all the ways that I’ve seen him at work. Amen. 

You’re in my seat!


#380 This is a perfect example of #youreinmyseat…cats are so territorial, part of me wants to question why, and then I looks round #localpubs, #restaurants with regular customers, my Dad at #home and even #church. It seems that so many of us are guilty of finding a spot we like, for whatever reason, and sticking with it. Those who have ever worked in offices will usually have worked at specific desks, and I remember how difficult life was as a teacher with no fixed classroom and living out of a series of boxes!! #ourspace is often so important, but when it becomes clicky, and leads us to talk to the same people, and stop looking round to welcome others (particularly in church, perhaps) our ownership of space can be damaging. My partner and I were moved in a church we went to a few months back, because the women who always sat there were unable to adapt…#hosptalitygonewrong perhaps?

It’s only bricks and mortar…

#271 Today we went to #church here…a private school in the week and on Sunday it turns into a praise and worship extravaganza! It got me thinking though; in the C of E many of our churches have a deep and rich #heritage, they can be hundreds of years old. There is a real sense, not only of #godspresence, but also of the many followers who have gone before. I love church buildings, but are they really inaccessible for people who aren’t used to going? Do they feel intimidating? Would people be more inclined to go if church was in a school/hotel/cafe? Does tradition not matter anymore? Does the building even matter? #shareyourthoughts 

What does it mean to be human?

#267 Do we act as individual entities, or do we look out for one another? Does #goodwill feature in our days, either given or received? Do we know our neighbours? Are we involved in our communities? Questions sparked from a lecture and an encounter today. The lecture was about the place of the church in society, its role in politics and its social action where we thought about the human condition, considering ourselves as relational beings, yet living in an individualistic way. Later at the supermarket I was blocked purposely from entering the filling station when it was my right of way. My protests were completely ignored. This person cared only about his needs, not what was right in that situation. Have we evolved to become too individualistic, only caring about ourselves? Are we #travellingalone on this life journey or do others accompany us along the way? #shareyourthoughts