Keeping church moving

Published: Friday September 16, 2016

howard-gilbert-squareOne Sunday morning, at the 8 o’clock Eucharist, I stood before a bleary-eyed churchwarden who had stayed up until 5am watching the Olympics!  And I was reminded of the words of the Colorado ‘Adventure Rabbi’, Jamie Korngold, who wrote:

“… I realised that there are many rabbis who can serve the 30 per cent of American Jews who are affiliated with congregations, but how many rabbis are reaching the 70 per cent who are not a member of congregations?  How many can relate to those who prefer skiing or hiking on Saturdays to attending the synagogue?  How many rabbis are able to understand and accept those who say, “Running is my religion?”[1]

There are two main choices in my parish of Cirencester on a Sunday morning: there is church, and there is sport; and, on the whole, never the twain shall meet.  But as we develop our new Diocesan Vision and consider ways of reaching out to a new generation in fresh ways, I wonder how we might engage with those who whose idea of a good time isn’t trying to sit still in a beautiful old building?

We do have some good examples of churches re-imagining the traditional in fresh and exciting ways, but the rest of us need to realise that if we only build the church around those who are looking for the peace and beauty of the inherited church, then we will never offer the Gospel to the increasing numbers who are looking for something more.

Of course, innovation tends to be uncomfortable, as we know well in the Church of England, but as Albert Einstein once said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.

By Father Howard Gilbert, Cirencester Area Dean.

[1] Rabbi Jamie S. Korngold, God in the Wilderness, Doubleday 2007 – p16.

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