We are currently watching the television programme A Vicar’s Life. A vicar who features prominently in the programme is shown at the beginning of each programme declaring forcefully “people do not go to church any more in this country”. Well, we know that he is generalising but I wish his comment had not been broadcast in a rather out of context way because we know that as a statement in its own right it is not true. People do still go to church, this is a blog on a church website contributed by a member of Burton Latimer Baptist Church.
This is an active church, a church which has seen growth in recent years and the people who attend range from children right through to the other end of the age spectrum. There are activities for all ages as well. It is true that many churches in rural areas do not have many regular attendees and many have no real pastoral oversight because it is not financially viable to pay an incumbent. I can only speak of what I know, but in the Kettering District there are small churches that were in danger of closure that are now rather better to the point where there is now pastoral oversight. Therefore, if you are new to the area and hunting for a church in this area you will find one.
However, this is but one aspect of Church. The word ‘church’ relates as much to the people who attend it as it does to the building they gather in. People are the church; if you are looking for a church then you are seeking out other people to join with in worship and, hopefully, helping them to spread the good news of Jesus. At the end of the day it is more important that we ensure that they hear that than it is do drag them into our buildings and then try and reach out to them. The truth is that people in today’s secular society need a reason to walk through the doors of a church building for the first time and we have to try and give them that reason. Then they may find a church congregation that they wish to be a part of. In John Wesley’s time, he and other preachers like him did not need a building. They stood out in the open air and people gathered to hear him preach the Word. It could be said that they did not need to hunt the church, it was out there among them
For several decades now many new housing estates have been built that have no church building at all. It happened in Kettering on one estate that I know of, I approached the Council to discuss the matter and was told that they had asked ‘the Church’ if they wanted one to be included and had been told no! They most certainly did not write out to the churches in the town; at that time I was involved with Churches Together in Kettering and was in a position to know this. The Council had set aside land for a Community Centre but had no money to build it so their response was to say that they would sell the land for £1 and the churches must pay for putting up a building. So far, so good, but there was a condition attached. Time had to be allocated for the Community to use the building and a certain number of people from the community had to be appointed to the governing body. There is still no church building on that estate. Estates are still being built with land being allocated for a worship building.
This a huge topic with many threads, too many to explore them all here but I ask you – “Where is the Church?”