My dear friends,
Many have been waiting with bated breath to hear the results of the PCC’s review of the new Sunday services. Unsurprisingly, the minor changes at 8.00 am and 6.30 pm were largely uncontentious. Reviewing the changes at 11.00 am services was always going to be a more challenging task because of the greater variety of opinion and the passions involved (for information, Bill Ball has produced summaries of the open meeting held on 29th January and also of the questionnaire responses received from the congregations; these are available in church and we hope they may be available online soon from www.astburychurch.org.uk; Summary Questionnaire minutes of the PCC’s debate will also become available in due course.)
I must commend the PCC for the quality of their deliberations and their willingness to engage with issues beyond mere self-interest. In summary, the philosophy that our new 11.00 am services should be aimed at a broader age-range was affirmed. In addition, sensible minor changes will be introduced that reflect the abiding traditional culture that is characteristic of Astbury and in keeping with our values. These will include the use of a more traditional form of the Lord’s Prayer, the inclusion of Psalms in Morning Prayer and of one communion a month being more firmly based on the language of the Book of Common Prayer. Alongside this, the PCC were very supportive of the work being done amongst families, children and young people through the Church School, Junior Church, Trailblazers, Confirmation/Alpha Groups and Holiday Club, and recognised the need to integrate this vitality and growth into the mainstream life of the whole church community.
A recent report published by the Church of England has identified the hallmarks of growing rural ministries1. The top three features of such successful churches were:
1) The church has accepted the need to change;
2) The church is willing to put the needs of children and families before their own; and
3) The willingness of the church to accept radical changes to their Sunday services and to expect less for themselves.
I have never underestimated the cost of such changes to the long-established and committed congregation, but I am proud to be part of a church that can consider itself at the forefront of the revival of the Church in the countryside.
______________________________________1 Mission Opportunities in the Countryside: Rural Children, Rural Church is published by Church House Publishing (£5.99; ISBN 13 - 978-0-7151-4126-7)
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