We are lucky in Chesterfield, in that our current 'Christians Together for Chesterfield' body is young and fresh - founded in 2009 after 'Hope 2008' finished, -but with older bodies (the former Sunday School union and the former 'Moral Welfare' body) more or less embraced. We are working out what it is that we should do together and what is properly done separately (whether that is denominational separateness or congregational separateness). Our collaboration with the Borough Council, first in Street Pastors and now in a Holiday Play Scheme, has given us a real sense of looking beyond ourselves. Only twice a year do we try to get everyone worshipping together - at the end of the Good Friday walk of witness and at a Songs of Praise on January 18th - because we find that worship is one of the most difficult things to do together. It seems to be very helpful that we have published a directory of our 'total Christian enterprise'. Are others at a similar stage of development?
Paul King (secretary)
This sounds great, Paul, but real 'Churches Together' is when the churches themselves get together and agree to act together instead of separately. Otherwise, even though it calls itself 'Churches Together' it is really only a Council of Churches, an organisation to which some or all of the churches belong. They send their reps (usually those who are 'keen on that sort of thing') and pay their subs and the organisation arranges its programme of events which it then asks the churches to support. Whenever I hear of a local Churches Together which is having difficulty finding somebody to be their secretary or treasurer and complaining that people don't support their meetings, a bell rings in the back of my head saying 'Council of Churches'!
The change is what happened nationally in the late 80s. Although the British Council of Churches did some wonderful things in its 48 years, it had a life of its own. Although there had been long conversations, especially after Vatican II, the Roman Catholic Church was never going to join an organisation which could make public statements on issues where it might take a different position. What emerged instead was Churches Together - exactly what it says on the tin! CTBI and CTE don't make statements or organise events on behalf of the Churches; they facilitate the Churches themselves in speaking and acting together. The media still don't get it and when the Presidents of CTE make a statement, the press just says that it's the Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster because they think that's all that matters.
So how about getting your diaries together and finding a date when all the churches in Chesterfield can hold their PCC, Church Meeting or whatever on the same evening? Instead of each having your own meeting in the usual places, hire the school and each have your meeting in a different classroom. It is essential that this is one of the regular meetings of each church's body, not an extra, so everyone will be expected to be there. But before these separate meetings, have half an hour together to explore what you are going to do to meet the needs of the people of Chesterfield. It might be so shocking it will make the spire on the Parish Church stand up straight again!
Your idea of an all together PCC night is exciting. I take your point that Councils of Churches ran out of steam as well as not having Catholics on board, but you are not altogether accurate in saying that we don't actually do things; Street Pastors is truly great, and the summer play scheme has also been very good. It may yet lead to a branch of the RoC trust. Heard of it?
I wondered if this document might be of interest to you in continuting this discussion...
Thank you very much for this, Ruth. It is most timely as I am just completing a paper for the Churches Group for Local Unity about informal ways in which different churches are working together. I've found much excellent work but in terms of the 5 Marks of Mission, most of it has been about meeting human need and any proclamation of the Gospel and making disciples has been incidental.
When I was a student at Cliff College in Derbyshire one of my fellow students, Rob Frost, led a mission in the local village of Calver Sough with the title 'Come Alive Calver!' Rob later went on to develop some very effective mission tours which went to different parts of the country. To follow this up, he could have had 'Wake Up Bacup' or 'Pop Up Towcester!' Instead of 'Revive Rugby', why not 'Touch Down, Rugby' or 'Drop Kick, Rugby!' ?