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Minister's Letter

Minister's Monthly Letter - October

Church Without Walls

Dear friends,

At our June Church Council’s, we agreed together to commit to the ‘Church Without Walls initiative. This Birmingham District initiative is being adopted, to one degree or another, by most of the churches in the district and really encourages us to look beyond the confines of the church to the community’s that we serve.

In as few words as possible, we have agreed to:

1. Claim God’s mission with us by clarifying our mission and discerning our concrete missional goals for 2017 – 2020.
2. Growing our congregational confidence by incorporating our mission into the welcome in every service; building a system of individual welcome and follow-up for every newcomer; including sharing ‘God Moments’ and inviting a sermonic missional application in every Advent 2017 – Lent 2018 worship service.
3. Getting outside our buildings by participating in the 20-29 April 2018 Together in Mission week, with a special evangelism event in our community.

These are exciting challenges for all of us and promise to present all sorts of opportunities over the coming year.

A recent article on the Methodist Evangelicals Together Web site says, “going outside the walls, leaving our comfort zone, not allowing or assuming God to be locked up in a building, is quite a challenge! Meeting people where they are. Consenting ‘to be more vile’. Preaching from your father’s tomb or in the open air, like John Wesley did. In this sense, clearly, church ‘without walls’ is at the heart of a Methodist way of being church. It’s our history and how we developed. It’s what we did.

In today’s Methodism, I think of Barbara Glasson’s ‘scarecrow ministry’ in Liverpool, leading to the setting up of the bread church, Somewhere Else. Or our involvement with Ship of Fools, an Internet based, ‘virtual’, church. At the London Synod we met ‘Applecart’, professional actors telling the Christian story through drama - in a pub in the East End of London. I mentioned ‘Applecart’ in a service in a London church and someone in the congregation said ‘Yes, that’s right. That’s why I’m here. That’s how I became a Christian!’

For other examples, I think of many different forms of lay and ordained chaplaincy (though I might get in trouble for describing prison chaplaincy as ‘without walls’!) In September, I visited the Navy and went on board HMS Daring with its Methodist Chaplain. I spoke to some young Muslim sailors who were quite clear that she was their chaplain too. She’d make sure there was somewhere on board ship they could say their prayers. And she was there for them when they needed someone to talk to. A few weeks later, I spoke to the senior RAF chaplain on Remembrance Sunday and he saw chaplaincy as one of the few places where the old parish idea still operates – of the minister, whatever their denomination, being there for everybody.

I’ve also met hospital chaplains, MHA chaplains, rural chaplains, retail chaplains and town centre chaplains. And then there is the amazing development of street pastors and ‘street angels’ in more and more places. In Wolverhampton they run Bible study groups in Yates’ and McDonalds! In Watford they offer to pray with young people they talk to on the streets at night – and the vast majority say ‘yes’. Police in Halifax say there’s been a 42% reduction in city centre crime over the past few years and put much of it down to the presence of ‘street angels’.”

May God bless us as we venture out together over the coming months with the expectation of making new followers of Jesus Christ.

Every Blessing

Jon