Dale Appleby

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Weekly Reflections

Praying what? 25 May 14

Praying what?

The Anglican church in Perth has slowly begun to realise that it is in decline. There are many indicators. The increasing average age of the people who belong. The decline in attendance. The decline in giving overall. The increasing number of parishes that no longer give enough to pay a full-time rector.

There are, as you might expect, different responses to this realisation. Some probably don't see the problem as very urgent. Those in well-off parishes or ones where there is still a residual of strength from former days may be less concerned.

Some have tried to pitch their parish as a niche product, appealing to those who are prepared to travel to something they like. Others have tried to adapt what they do and say to a particular group or ideology in the community. Some have tried to use methods that they see have worked somewhere else. Others just keep going with what they have been doing for a long time, perhaps not knowing what else to do – or being unwilling to try.

 A recent writer has also pointed out that some of our traditional strategies for reaching new people with the gospel are now much more difficult. In particular what was once a strength of the parish – belonging to local neighbourhoods – is now much less a strength. Even if most people in a church lived locally, their friendships and relationships are more likely to be at work or in their recreation world. Many will not have much to do with the people who live in their street.

I think that many local parishes will continue to decline and be amalgamated or just close down. Some will survive. Some of these will be those with a good foundation in property, lack of debt, well run services, keen lay leaders and energetic ministers. Some will survive even though they may have abandoned most traditional Christian beliefs. They will survive by the force of their program and the attraction of sufficient people of shared interests and belief. Although probably not for very long.

What about us? Surviving is not the same as growing, nor is it the same as making disciples. What is needed? Just people who really want to see others turn to Christ. The one infallible sign of this is that these people pray that others will turn to Christ. Everything else follows from that.



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