Wednesday, 3 February 2010

How Connected are we?

Here is an interesting question – ‘How connected are we?’
You might be wondering why I am asking this question and the answer is quite simply that the Connexion seems to have been mentioned in a number of posts during the past week and invariably I sense it is always said in inverted commas and sometimes in the same tone that we might use for say the Mafia.

It has been said elsewhere that we are all the Connexion but this started me thinking and the question that keeps coming back is ‘How connected are we?’ and I would like to explore this a little based on my own observations and conversations with Methodist folk.

I had considered doing one post on this but thought it might end up rather lengthy so will be doing it over the next few days in smaller chunks.

How connected are we as local church members?
This seemed to be a good place to start and I am sorry to say that I might have to reply not very. As a Local Preacher I go to a variety of fellowships both in our own circuit and others, and I know the old joke about the best seats in Methodism being at the back, but this is often a fact of how we sit. One church in our circuit fills up from the back forward and invariably the front six to eight rows are empty. The remaining members will be spread around the remaining seats and woe betide anyone who might suggest they move forward or sit together. One of our other churches with a large congregation has people who sit towards the front but even this is at least 30 foot from the pulpit and other members sit dotted all over a very large building.
There are other difficulties on a local level as well – try to get someone to take on a job and you will meet with all sorts of excuses, folk don’t or won’t attend Church Council in case they get volunteered to do a job or be on some other group such as the circuit meeting.

I sense that sometimes this can lead to one group having almost a stranglehold on what goes on at a local level and others never get a say. I remember in my early days in Methodism going to a church in our area where every position was held by someone with the same surname. There were two views on this, one being that this family ruled the place with a rod of iron and the other was that they were all very active people who gave back to the church in a range of ways. Readers may have their own thoughts on this type of situation and it may be that this is part of the thinking behind the six year rule. We have recently had a senior steward step down in one of our churches who has done something like 30 years in the role so how effective was the six year rule in this case?

We hear people talk about the church family but I wonder how this pans out in reality? Do we only ever see the family in artificial surroundings where we are wearing our Sunday best and being on our best behaviour? When did we last go shopping or for a coffee with another member of our church? When did we have a conversation away from church with another member (other than pastoral ones)? When did e meet socially with any of the members of our church, except at church?
I do understand that sometimes the things in the previous paragraph don’t happen in real families and that is very sad but it still raises some interesting points.

I am sorry to say that in very general terms based on what I see we are not very well connected at local church level.

In my next post I will pose the question ‘How connected are we as a circuit?’


Rev Tony B said...

Most Methodists are actually congregationalist. Instead of Wesley's "The world is my parish", they think "My parish is my world". A significant proportion have no understanding of circuit, let alone District or Connexion - and as for World Methodism...

Having said that, quite a few folk seem to be very dedicated within their limited horizons, and there are those who do look and are involved further afield.

Where I would wish to affirm rather than be critical is that for many, however local their horizons may be, they do practise an incarnational faith. How many charity shops would close down if it weren't for 'ordinary' church members staffing them?

Sometimes the 'ordinary' can be extraordinary.

Bob the Black Country Brummie said...

Whooo don't you scrub up well.

Fat Prophet said...

Tony, Thanks for your comments - none of which I dsagree with and the posts to follow will consider these. You are of course right about affirming what we do do and I hope that these posts will not come across as being totally negative but i am as I stated telling it as I see it here in Walsall - maybe for other people and places it will be very much different - I will try to be a little more positive in the next post.

Bob thanks you for your kind comment - not to bad for a Black Country lad!!

Bob the Black Country Brummie said...

Nowt rung wi black cuntray folk them the solt oh the earth. Um proud ta be an onary black cutray mun.