Comments: Celebrating fallibility

I'm across the pond in Quebec, Canada, in a very isolated region. The church isn't what I would call in a healthy state; more along the maintenance model of ministry. Despite the lack of growth, folks here still want the church, as it is one of the very few opportunities for people to gather and touch base with others. Virtually everyone here feels the church is necessary but won't explain why. (I was the priest for seven years before I went on disability - I do services on a volunteer and occasional basis, and we have a new deacon).
I expect the maintenance model will continue to be the norm here as it is in many parts of the country.

Posted by Tony Hitsman at Saturday, 31 July 2004 at 5:26pm BST

Since the religious census of 1851 the Church or England has been repeatedly told that it relates to an ever-smaller portion of the population, that 'steady as she goes' is not and option, and that the church must change if it is to survive, let alone thrive.

To be fair it has changed immensely since then on almost every dimension you can imagine - self-government, liturgical renewal, parochial structures, national missions, loosening measures of beliving and belonging, and tightening them, and much else. A large part of the motivation for change over that 150 years has been the desire to enable clergy and laity to undertake their core business (and there have always been a wide range of conceptions of precisely what constitutes the 'core').

But the process of changing in order to be more vibrant, more focussed, has in practice enabled the management of decline.

Reasons for decline lie largely (not exclusively) outside the control of church people. The inevitable reponse to decline is to look to things that church members can control: the internal ideas and ordering of the church. But it is increasingly hard to escape the trap of seeking to make changes for the better when the predominant experience is of being a victim of external forces. In these circumstances it is easy to blame or attack others who do not share your particular prescription for internal change without acknowledging that they are equally victim to the external pressures.

But what a positive response might be, I don't know any more than anyone else. Perhaps just survival: to preach the Gospel, celebrate the sacraments, offer such care to individulas and groups as is possible, to look after oneself and let history look after itself. Or perhaps survival is best achieved by denying history and plunging unreservedly into revivalism.

Posted by Paul Bagshaw at Monday, 2 August 2004 at 9:51am BST