When our daughter was back in Australia for her wedding in February, her new husband offered to do the grocery shopping. Sitting in front of the computer in our home he made his order online and arranged for it to be delivered to their home in London just a few hours after their plane landed.
People now have many choices about how to do their shopping and some corner shops stand empty. But that doesn’t mean that people have stopped shopping. They are doing it differently.
Last century many congregations built small timber churches to service the needs of their neighbourhood, but now people have lots of choices about how they maintain their faith. Worship, witness and service don’t look the way they used to!
Small, strong congregations can make an enormous impact on their communities. Yet there remains a tension between maintaining the old buildings and giving up the patterns of church life from a former era in order to embrace new missional directions.
The house churches described in the Book of Acts would have seemed like an innovation compared with the familiar patterns of synagogue worship.
I recently attended the Trans-Tasman Moderators’ gathering in New Zealand. The Moderator of the Aotearoa New Zealand Presbyterian Church provided us with statistics gathered across their congregations.
Worship attendance is down, some congregations rely on rental income of unused manses or church halls in order to pay the stipends of ministry agents. Several congregations have sold property and live off the interest. Their statistics match the Uniting Church in Australia.
We wondered together whether it is a sin for congregations to hold on to funds that were gifted by generous and faithful members of a different era. What does it tell us about being faithful stewards and trusting God to provide the resources for mission in this time and place?
Some congregations are re-shaping the way they connect with their communities in creative ways, but we are often shy about inviting people to contribute money for the innovative missions in local areas. If we believe that “money follows mission” then we should not be shy of asking people to share in the good work, that faith in action, that we are doing.
Perhaps it is time to change gears. How can we use the momentum on the decline to help us get up the hill on the other side?
Rev Kaye Ronalds
Queensland Synod Moderator