Neighbourhood Matters did a consultancy workshop at Garden Suburb Uniting Church this week. The church realises that it is struggling for its existence and they are thinking about what it means to “die well”. This is a very confronting thought! However, in the midst of this more sombre note, the exciting question they asked was, “What needs to change for our church to be the church today in these difficult times?” We all know that not many people in our culture wake up one morning on a Sunday and decide to go to church, no matter how interesting we think our sermons are or what we feel we have to offer. People are finding community and spirituality elsewhere. So what do we do?
It was wonderful to be with a church that believes in the death and resurrection cycle. It means we believe the church must sometimes die in order to be reborn – sometimes in a shape that looks different to the past. The church has always gone through times of growth, struggle, persecution and change, and these days are no exception. It’s not always about growth but it is always about being faithful in the world. It can mean letting go of the old in order for the new to emerge.
In the workshop we explored what it looks like to reorient the church around the community rather than itself, and talked about how this seemingly simple shift can take many years and a lot of internal reshuffling. It can cause a lot of grief for us as we need to let go of some dearly- and long-held practices and values we might have grown up with in the church.
We are very encouraged that today there are many churches that want to change and engage more with the community, neighbourhood and world.