There are many things that I find frustrating about the Anglican church. It would be easy to rant about the bureaucracy, or the moral compromise, or the woolly theology, all of which can make the job on the ground so much harder. But the one thing that it has going for it is the rootedness in the local community. It seeks to reach the parts that other churches may not reach by aiming to provide a presence in every area. My job as a vicar is not to build a megachurch that draws in folk from miles around (and potentially skims off the most able members from other churches in the area) nor support a cosy club for the spiritually minded. My job is to reach those in the locality with the gospel of Jesus Christ and to welcome them when they turn to the church for rites of passage such as baptisms, weddings and funerals.
Of course there is the question of how in the days of increasing financial austerity such ministry can be sustained. But the other way of looking at the situation is to say that if the parish system is going to collapse in 10 years time we have a 10 year window for mission and outreach, and I think we ought to go for it!
For the past few years I have drawn up a Parish Prayer Cycle around about each May. It’s a very simple document that lists all the streets of the two parishes, and the names of the church members, and divides them up over a 28 day cycle. That may sound like a very dry exercise, but actually when you build a fire, it’s the dry stuff that catches the flame! Our whole mission action plan as a church is rooted in prayer, and I believe that God can and does use even this document to reach the unreached.
But there’s clearly more we could do – prayer walks, prayer cards, prayer rooms etc. etc. There is so much more we could do to pray for our neighbours and the streets we serve. Hopefully some ideas will emerge from our Church Away Day on 30th June.
In the meanwhile if you haven’t got a copy of the church prayer cycle, pick up a copy next Sunday and start using it regularly. You may just be surprised by the results!