Well, what did we do with our church?
In the relatively recent past, IBEX ran a number of sessions entitled What Shall We Do With Our Church? It followed on from the considerable works undertaken at Buckland United Reformed Church, Portsmouth, which Tim’s predecessor Cliff Bembridge oversaw. Oversaw is an inadequate word... drove might be better. Cliff had come in to a Church which was desperate to adapt and change and even had plans to do so. At one point they had considered total demolition and giving the space over to a skate park, which might sound ridiculous, but it would have been very useful for the community, which was the point.
But Cliff took the existing plans, adapted them, talked to the Community about what it wanted and needed, raised the money to do it and got it done.
That is a gross over-simplification, but it was a great example of what can be done with a small and not wealthy Church membership. To the Glory of God and the benefit of the Community, it was transformed from a rambling Victorian pile to a bright, airy and above all useful suite of premises - the place to be in Buckland. The crowning glory was getting the clock working again, a landmark clock at the top of the tower and and there for all to see to show that things here are “going” again.
So the What Shall We Do With Our Church? sessions grew out of a desire to share this, use Buckland as a giant visual aid and encourage others to do the same - not replicate every last detail of a major building project, but to think, and think seriously about why they were there and what they wanted to do.
But it wasn’t just Buckland. We did similar sessions at the Central Baptist Church in Southampton and at Parkstone United Reformed Church in Poole, both of which are in some ways similar, but in many other ways VERY different stories.
David Masters in Southampton and Mark Phillips in Poole helped run some excellent sessions.
But why did people come?
There seemed to be a mix of motives, from people whose Churches were “dying” and who didn’t want to let go, to people who were already doing a lot and who wanted do do more. And what did we do with them? We tried to make them think, to think about their communities, to develop that thinking through talking with their communities - a flyer through every letterbox locally to invite suggestions, to think about how to raise the funds to do whatever might be needed, to think about and develop a convincing story, which is what founders might react to, be impressed by, be captivated by, that demands attention.
But it wasn’t just about the big build and big money. It was about little things that can make a difference as well - reacting to the needs of the community in small ways, recycling the stuff abandoned outside the large number of student residences at change-over season, housing local projects which have nowhere else to go.
Two things that Churches have are premises and people, which other thoroughly worthwhile causes might find difficult to come by. Doing things for God’s People and God’s Planet, which otherwise might fall by the wayside.
We know a lot of people found these events useful and encouraging, IBEX does not have a great deal of feedback on what people might have done as a result. IBEX is thinking, though, about how it might usefully revisit the concept.
Watch this space!