Home » Community, Spirituality

Living Faith

Posted on 11 February 2010 No Comments yet

 

 

A VISION FOR OUR CHURCHES

Living Faith for the Future…

We thought it would be helpful to share with you the vision for the Oxford Diocese which is being implemented over the coming years. We feel that ‘Living Faith’ offers us an excellent framework for thinking about our own parish and how we continue to develop and grow as a ‘vibrant Christian community’.

We hear a lot of doom and gloom about the state of the Church in Britain – the papers will tell you that the church is in free fall decline and has lost its voice in an increasingly secular society. But the truth is that the church is very much alive and kicking and, despite all the changes and challenges that must be faced, we can see with our own eyes that the Christian faith is relevant to people’s lives.

In Thatcham we can see that church attendance is increasing; we see the number of baptisms as strong as ever, we see people keen to do the Alpha course. We have young people exploring the Christian faith, going to Soul Survivor, being confirmed… We have a Christian presence in our local schools – a really strong presence in our Secondary school thanks to Pete – and we meet eighty or so young people a week at the youth club. Countless mums and toddlers gather every Wednesday and enjoy hearing bible stories and singing together – they like coming to church. In these and many other ways we can see with our own eyes that the Christian faith is meeting real needs and engaging with people’s concerns and desires.

So in Thatcham we are excited to see that the Oxford Diocese is supporting the work we are already doing by setting out a vision for how churches can grow and develop in a changing culture. This is the ‘Living Faith for the future’ initiative and includes all sorts of resources and ideas which parishes can use if they wish to. The Bishop of Oxford who is the driving force behind Living Faith says that this initiative is not about ‘doing more’, but ‘doing differently’ – it’s about helping churches to evaluate what will help them to flourish and grow in their own location and context.

Bishop John describes Living Faith as being rather like a palette of colours which each parish can use in their own way to create that work of distinctive beauty which is their particular response to God’s mission. He says, ‘What we end up with then is a gallery full not of look-alike paintings, but of vibrant, colourful and unique works of art.’

The vision he sets out is a helpful picture of what the church, in all its diversity, exists to do. It does contain some jargon – apologies for that – but I hope as you read this summary you will be able to imagine the ways in which we in Thatcham can continue to build our own vibrant Christian community.

The Living Faith vision is based on five key areas which are summarised here. If you wish to read the full document and see what resources are being produced visit the Diocese of Oxford website or see the coverage in ‘The Door’. 

The Living Faith vision

1. Sustaining the sacred centre

This is about encouraging and enabling clergy and lay people to deepen their enjoyment of God, and to recognize God’s presence in everyday life. The ‘sacred centre’ is not simply about the church as a place of prayer and worship, but is better understood as being about our relationship with God and how this can be encouraged and sustained.  So ‘sustaining the sacred centre’ is about deepening the life of prayer and worship, enjoying our God-given creativity, and using imagination and creativity to breathe new life in to cherished ways of doing things.

  

2. Making disciples

This is about the core task left to us by Jesus. It usually takes the form of accompanying people on a journey to faith by the intentional use of nurture courses, mentoring, the catechumenate (an ancient approach to accompanied journeying), or simple friendship.

3. Making a difference in the world

 

This is about recognising that in a holistic understanding of God’s action in the world, there is no mission without social justice; that social justice and prophetic witness cannot be put in a box as a specialism or an extra, but is at the heart of the calling of every Christian community in its own context. In other words, we are here to address practical needs and concerns as well as spiritual ones.

4. Shaping confident, collaborative leadership

This is about developing leadership using all the resources available to the local church. It would involve consolidation in some parishes and new work in others to build up shared ministry in teams, with appropriate training and support. In many parishes this will involve working more intentionally on the setting up, shaping and supporting of lay people in ministry teams.

 

5. Creating vibrant Christian communities

This is about shaping ‘communities of grace’ which exhibit the character of Jesus. Such attractive communities are genuinely hospitable, deeply engaged with their communities, and passionate about God. It is very easy for any organisation or group to get stuck in a rut and to do things just because they have always been done. To be a ‘vibrant Christian community’ means having the courage to let go of what is stale or unhelpful, being clear about what really matters, and not taking ourselves too seriously!  PCCs have a role to play in helping churches to take an honest look at themselves, but it is probably true to say that vibrant Christian communities develop naturally where the ‘sacred centre’ is nurtured and enlivened by sincere and faithful prayer.

So this vision from the diocese, with its helpful reminder of what it means to be the church, will help to shape our thinking and to guide our decision-making as we seek to grow and flourish over the months and years to come.

Becky Bevan

THE LIVING FAITH PRAYER

Gracious God,

you call us to a living faith in the future

as well as in the present;

open our eyes to the opportunities before us

in our parishes and deaneries,

and in the daily discipleship of our own lives.

May we sustain and nourish our inner lives,

so that we can serve others effectively,

and offer to all people the transforming love

of Jesus Christ our risen Lord. Amen

 

‘I’ve always been clear in my own mind that the health of our diocese lies not at the centre, but in the vitality and imagination of the local parish or arena of ministry. What we have attempted to do with ‘Living Faith’ is to provide a vision, and a set of priorities, to help you frame your thinking as you live out your faith together.’
Bishop John


Leave your response!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.