Growing God's Church - wider, deeper and closer
Dear Church Member,
On Tuesday (7th June) our PCCs met and discussed a number of issues, including four key areas in which we hope to see God’s Church grow wider, deeper and closer. I would like to draw attention to these areas in this letter, which also asks five questions that invite your response.
Worship Services – ‘inherited’ and ‘fresh’
Central to our church life is our regular pattern of worship services where we Welcome one another in God’s name, encounter God through his Word, respond in Worship and are sent out to Witness to God’s goodness – to “live and work to His praise and glory”. We meet in order that the Kingdom of God is extended and God’s Church is grown wider, deeper and closer.
But our established form of worship, whilst enjoyed and appreciated by many, does not suit all, especially those who have been born since the 1960s. In recent decades there has been a major cultural shift and progressive reduction in the number of those brought up attending and familiar with church. Many of those in so-called generations ‘X’, ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ do not connect with what could be called “inherited church” and need a “fresh expression” that fits more closely with their culture and outlook. The Church has constantly needed to adapt as it has encountered new cultures and new times, and that is especially true today.
In seeking to serve and be relevant and accessible to our whole community, our two churches are committed to developing a new form of worship alongside our traditional ways of doing things, drawing from the wealth of experience that other churches have of successfully connecting with those not engaged with ‘inherited church’.
Our PCCs have decided that this ‘Fresh Expression’ should be done co-operatively across Harwell and Chilton to serve both parishes, with the target audience being younger adults and families, whilst being open to all.
So what will it look like? The details are yet to be worked out, but key words are informal, interactive, relational, accessible, participative, and fun. It is likely that food would be involved. Various options are being considered for timing (e.g. Sunday, Saturday or a weekday) and location (e.g. in a church building, a hall, or a school). It would seek to learn and take the best from Alpha, Messy Church, Connect, Hands Free, and Café Church.
Would you like to be involved in shaping this exciting new initiative, and consider committing to it?
Alongside this ‘Fresh Expression’ we are of course committed to preserving all that is good in the current way we do things. In some ways Sunday services are the ‘shop window’ of the church and we get large numbers of visitors, with the potential for many more. How can we make the most of this opportunity for new people to engage with Sunday worship, become involved in church life, come to faith in Jesus and grow? I would find it really helpful to know your views on what is it about our regular services that make it easy or difficult to invite others.
If wanting to attract more people to our services, what do you feel should be continued, and what should be changed?
Please either write your thoughts on a slip of paper and put it in the collection bag or wall safe, or else email me or send me a message via the website, which can be done anonymously if you wish.
Christians Against Poverty (CAP) exists to bring freedom and good news to the poor by releasing people from debt, poverty and their causes. This is done through services run by local churches – CAP Debt Centres, Job Clubs, Release Groups and the Money Course. Our churches have recently been running CAP Money Courses, and a member of Harwell PCC, Lizi Bowerman, is an Area Manager for CAP. More info here: https://capuk.org
In January 2015 a partnership of three churches established a CAP Debt Centre in Wallingford, serving those in the OX10 area. CAP Wallingford has been successful in helping those in great financial need and also in connecting people into local church fellowships. There is, however, demand for CAP Debt Centre coverage in our (OX11) area. Our PCCs have therefore been discussing the possibility of partnering with other local churches to support the expansion of the Wallingford CAP Centre to cover our area. This would involve a financial commitment, but also the need to provide volunteers to support the Centre Manager and CAP clients.
Would you be interested in supporting this either through volunteering or giving?
Science and Faith
Since the autumn a group has been meeting regularly to explore the relationship between science and faith. A perceived conflict between the two is a stumbling block for many, but this is often based in misunderstanding. Given our location, these issues are especially relevant. The group has had a fruitful time exploring how science and faith are in fact complementary ways of looking at reality and have much to offer each other.
We have been successful in securing funding for a year-long project that helps people engage in the conversation between science and theology. The project will include a monthly, hands-on family science club, an adult discussion forum, and three high-profile speaker events, and will begin in September.
Please speak to Carina Lobley or me, project co-directors, if you would like to know more or are interested in getting involved.
Ministry Apprentices or ‘Interns’
Some of the funding for the Science and Faith project is available for an intern to manage the project, and this opens up the exciting possibility of having one, or even two, Ministry Apprentices or ‘Interns’ attached to our churches next year.
A growing number of churches and Christian organisations are developing and running internship or apprenticeship schemes, local examples being St Ebbe’s Church and St Aldate’s Church in Oxford, and ‘Christians in Sport’ (Bicester). Interns typically spend a year post-university in a combination of ministry experience, practical service and formal training. Training interns is a way of investing in the next generation of Christian leaders and growing the ministries of local churches.
We discussed this possibility at our recent PCC meeting and in principle thought it was a good idea. One thing that would make this realistic would be the provision of accommodation.
Do you – or someone you know – have accommodation – a room, annex or even a floor of your house, perhaps – that could be made available for a Christian graduate (or two), for a few months or even a full year, so that they could live and work amongst us?
I am excited about what God is doing amongst us – there is much encouragement and many possibilities for seeing God’s Church grow deeper, wider and closer, including through a ‘fresh expression’ of worship, a CAP Debt Centre, exploring the interaction of science and faith, and beginning a ministry apprentice/internship scheme. Please be thinking and praying about these possibilities and how you might be involved in working with God to grow His Church in Chilton, Harwell and beyond.
“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow… For we are fellow workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Cor 3:6,9).
With best wishes,
Revd Dr Jonathan L Mobey
Rector of Harwell with Chilton