On Saturday members of the Kirk Session and Congregational Board met in Rubislaw Church Centre for a morning and afternoon of discussion and thought as we think together about the present and future for Ferryhill Parish Church. Part of that process was recognising and celebrating the past, for that story leading to today is one full of good news stories alongside the challenges of being a community of faith in the twentieth and now twenty-first century. But we did not remain with eyes on the past, we also began to turn our eyes more clearly on the future and preparing for what that may hold.
In the first of our exercises, pictures from which above, we thought about the past, present and future of the Kirk in Ferryhill by allowing space to give thanks for what has been built up over the years, the many ministries that serve people within the parish, including things like the coffee shop, Sunday club and Summer club. We then turned to the present and tried to be honest about where the holes exist in what we do, from our own perspective. And finally everyone had an opportunity to talk about their dreams for the future of the Kirk. Once these ideas were jotted down on sheets, we put them up around the room and then armed with a sheet of sticky dots we added our agreement to the ideas of others.
I have all these sheets at home now ready to be collated so that we see how folks felt about these issues on the day. That will be an interesting exercise.
Thereafter, we spent a bit of time thinking about some of the challenges that we face as a Community of Faith in Scotland in the current day, which is a very different cultural setting from even 50 years ago. For this we thought a bit about the work done to understand generations, which I have talked about before here.
Some of these ideas are helpfully coalesced by John Drane as he talks about the church's mission to Scotland in the video above put out by Fresh Expressions. There is no point in harking back to bygone eras of church life set within a different culture, and built by earlier generations. That era of the church will never come back, nor should we wish it because it would be wholly unsuitable for people today. However, the institutional church (whether at denominational or local level) is a challenging body to move and adapt. The hulking leviathan that slowly journeys from setting off point to destination is ever more in need of offshoots that are fleet of foot to move quickly to develop and encourage communities of people who want to explore together faith, discipleship and fellowship in a way that is most meaningful and resonant with them.
Sadly for those of us that love the experience of worship on a Sunday morning, this is not always the best place in which to build relationships with others, though it still provides a deeply meaningful moment of communal worship that will be a part of church life for many years to come, never fear! However, creating space for different forms of faith community, different ways to create relationships that support and encourage each other is vital for the spiritual well-being of people within our parish.
This is not creating space in which to preach at people, nor is it motivated by a sense of making more of 'us' in opposition to 'them', it is motivated rather by the desire to spend time in each other's company and to accompany others as we journey through faith and life, with all that journey's attendant questions, doubts, struggles, moments of joy and sadness, thankfulness, and companionship.
To do this authentically takes humility and courage, from the part of those of us who are disciples of Christ, and from those who may not have any faith commitment, that we can learn from each other, grow together, and make our community a better place for all.
Our discussions, as leaders in Ferryhill Parish Church, are at an early stage, and part of that involves thinking about how we structure ourselves and our work in order to best focus on the most important part of our work and witness. It will take us time to work through what that means, but the journey is underway.