We had our PCC last week and one of the items on the agenda was the end of our lease at the Church centre. We have now been there for nearly five years!The question is what do we do? Well I must be getting old but I was wondering about whether we should be moving to a larger set of premises. This came about due to the number of staff that we now have and how cosy it can be for certain things (such as PCC meetings and Cell leaders meetings). With only enough room for two staff in the office part and often more people than wishing to work there it can sometimes be “snug”.
But this was the thing. Firstly, a larger building would be more expensive and the danger would be the perennial danger that we would end up looking for more ministries etc to put into it. In one sense that would be fine; but the model that we have developed at Springfield is not “what can we do that uses the building?” but rather “what building best fits the ministry that we wish to do”. As Donna pointed out to me today it isn’t that having a building is wrong but that given where we are the lack of buildings gives us opportunities that others don’t have.
Rhidian Brook on Radio 4’s Thought for the day earlier this month makes a similar point when he questions the need for so many large church buildings. He says:
the real dynamite…….. is his [Jesus] redefinition of what a temple or church should be made from: not with marble, or sandstone, or fund- raising events, but with his body and the living stones of his followers. This new temple would be built using people instead of bricks. It’s such a radical reformation of religion that it’s tempting to dismiss it as metaphor and spiritualise it away. Two thousand years on it feels that this extraordinary, new building project is still clad in scaffolding.
Therefore for Springfield we look to see what we are being called to do first and worry about where we can meet next. That can cause hassle and difficulty. It can be so much easier to have a set of rooms and spaces available to us. But we are building a new type of church. One in which we are building with the “stones” of people. As the apostle Peter says:
Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and 5 like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Pe 2:4-5
I remember talking to a vicar of a church like Springfield who used buildings like us and then was given a church building. He told me that the change was virtually instant. People started worrying and arguing about the building and colour scheme and upkeep etc. So, I hope that we can keep our focus on people and caring for them rather than expend our effort on buildings.
Norman Ivison, the Director of Communication and Resources within the Fresh Expressions team, says
With around 50 church buildings closing each year in the UK, and new congregations which form often avoiding owning their own building, we might well be forced to think more seriously about the importance of simple worship in ordinary places. That can only be a good thing.