Two months ago when I wrote I was giving you advance notice that the Elders would be ringing around during June to listen to your answers to some questions we wanted to ask. It was not possible, of course, to speak to everyone but we did manage to get in touch with nearly everyone who was available, and so I can now give you some feedback from those conversations.
Over all it was a very positive experience. We felt that you gave us some honest answers and that the calls were worthwhile. It certainly left me feeling that, as an Elders team, we were more in touch with you as a congregation and that we received some valuable insights. Within the calls we made there were some individual concerns and specific issues that we will be able to respond to, but here are the general responses to the questions:
Question one was, ‘Do we show adequate care toward each other within the congregation?’ In general, your answer was yes, and that what you particularly value is that the welcome we offer is a natural and genuine one. It was very helpful to be reminded that not everyone has found that we have always achieved the right level of care all the time – a warning for us not to be too complacent – but these incidents were very much the exception rather than the rule.
Question two, ‘Do we offer the right opportunities to pray with and for each other, and for wider concerns?’ By far the most common answer was that you really value the opportunities opened up by the use of the prayer book and the prayer network – a sign that we have really become a congregation where prayer for each other is a more natural part of what we do.
Question three, ‘Do we feel that we are spiritually fed through our worship and study groups?’ Again, the answer was that on the whole we do – though some of you were honest enough to say that this isn’t the case all the time.
Question four, ‘Are we happy with the ways in which we try to serve our community?’ Yes we are – and we are glad that this has become one of the distinguishing features of our church. Quite rightly, one or two of you reminded us that this aspect of our work should not take over from or distract from our task of being a worshipping community.
Question five, ‘Are we engaged enough with global issues like peace and justice?’ Many of you admitted that ‘This is a tough one!’, and one where we could do more work – though not forgetting that we are already doing a great deal through Fair Trade and Commitment for Life.
Question six, ‘Are we confident enough in sharing our faith with others?’ Nearly everyone answered this with the admission, ‘I’m not! – but others might be!’
Question seven, ‘Have we got the balance right between these priorities, and others we might consider important?’ Most of you thought we had the balance about right. The interesting answer that we got here is that even when some of you thought we might not have the balance spot on, you felt that we were a church that is ready for change, and that we would be able to do something about it.
This last comment above all encourages me, and gives me the confidence to say that we are in a good place at the moment. With this, as with all our Christian discipleship, it’s not about proving that we have got it right. We will never achieve perfection, and everything we do achieve is by the grace of God. It is about being prepared to trust ourselves to the journey on which God takes us.
Yours in Christ,