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Calderdale Methodist Circuit : Facing the Challenge: Analysis of Church Discussions

1. Historic Highs & Lows

The churches found it easy to talk about the past; they remembered many highs, and also lows. Some examples from reports and flipchart notes are:

Highs

  • Boothtown/Southowram amalgamation
  • 20:20 vision day
  • 2003 merging of two churches
  • Plays & Sunday School Events
  • 250 years celebration & bi-centenary
  • 1984 Lay Witness Weekend
  • Success of rebuild, both building and activities
  • Ladies' group (since 1972)
  • Fellowship through special functions (e.g. scarecrow festival..)
  • 200 people in early 1970s
  • Welcoming people from other churches
  • Regularly conducted church audits has enabled de-cluttering and focus
  • Tour de France event
  • In the 1970s and 80s. Good congregations, – many youth organisations

Lows

  • “It will see me out” attitude
  • Threat of closure (1980)
  • Move to Calderdale Circuit
  • Closure of nearby churches
  • Not following through on previous “visions”
  • Wading through large amounts of red tape (Methodist & URC)
  • Bureaucracy
  • Building problems (long-term uncertainty)
  • Lack of people willing to take office
  • Bad ministers
  • Loss of playgroup and Girl Guides
  • Red tape/admin
  • Fire
  • Lack of ministry around 2000
  • Stop/start of refurbishment

Common Threads

  • Successful building development projects leading to a “high” due to new fellowship and opportunities. However, sometimes a ”low” due to problems in the development and difficulty in going forward.
  • Specific special events that leave a permanent positive effect (spiritual and social)
  • Experience of good and bad ministry
  • Church “audits” that have a positive short-term influence – that are not always followed through
  • Perception that red tape and bureaucracy is increasing and that it is more difficult to find people willing to take office because of this.
  • Loss of young families & young people and difficulty attracting them
  • Older people do not wish to continue doing church work/jobs

2. Changes Resulting from being part of the “big circuit”

Not very positive impressions of the move to the Calderdale Circuit.

Some examples from reports and flipchart notes are:

Positive

  • Variation of local preachers
  • No change!
  • Meeting other Christians
  • Opportunities to visit other churches
  • Wider perspective
  • Busoasis

Negative

  • Loss of Circuit WGs (especially young people)
  • Don’t feel part of it
  • Too big geographically (remote – at the edge)
  • Larger churches being bled to keep smaller churches going
  • LEPs sometimes see circuit as a threat
  • Loss of concentrated ministry
  • Financial burden
  • Other ministers less visible
  • Not regular presence of highly-valued lay preachers
  • Loss of lay worker
  • Circuit meeting too large
  • People need to feel to be involved in decision-making process

Common Threads

  • One of the few positive comments about the new circuit was that there was a more varied set of lay preachers visiting the churches
  • One set of negative comments focussed on the “big” size of the circuit that is perceived to lead to geographic isolation and remoteness
  • Another negative comment was that the new circuit is “more expensive”.
  • There is a feeling in some parts that the Circuit Meeting is a “rubber-stamping” mechanism and that decisions are taken elsewhere.
  • There is a perception that ministers are less visible (positively some said “less visible on Sundays – but more visible during the week”)

3. Changes Noticed in the Last Year

Again examples:

  • Planning for bi-centenary
  • Feeling tired (getting older)!
  • Messy church
  • Own arrangements
  • Shared services (Salem – Boothtown/Southowram)
  • New Minister
  • Social Action Team
  • Around the Dale Magazine
  • Appointing a contact worker
  • Youth Club for over 11s
  • Increased circuit assessment
  • New lift
  • 250 years anniversary (lots of work – some things worked others didn’t)
  • Loss of lay workers
  • Greater variety of preachers
  • Less presbyter time
  • House groups
  • Busoasis
  • Prayer group
  • Transfers in of members from closed churches
  • Sunday school has gone
  • No scouts
  • Messy church grows ecumenically
  • Deaths
  • New members
  • New ideas from new presbyters
  • Growth in numbers
  • Redevelopment of Sunday School
  • Tuesday toddlers
  • Lent and Advent House groups
  • Social committee
  • Wednesday lunch club increases
  • Rock Gospel Choir

Common Threads

  • Clearly many new initiatives (spiritual and social)
  • Many show fall in numbers – but not all!
  • Some have noticed that “their” presbyter is less available
  • Busoasis is seen as a positive initiative
  • Churches have new members arriving from closed churches (not always the nearest church)
  • Tiredness and getting older

4. Gifts and Resources of the Churches that could be shared

The churches have many talents. They are very proud of them. Many of them do a great deal for other churches and their community. There is a willingness to help other whenever possible.

Examples

  • Building/Facilities (especially for community use)
  • Tithe fund from Sunday giving
  • Local preachers & worship leaders
  • Newsheets, Newsletters
  • Busoasis driver
  • Professional people
  • Music
  • Youth Club
  • Beer & Hymns
  • Holiday at Home
  • Premises to rent
  • Catering
  • Friendship & Fellowship
  • Tuck shop
  • Church with historical significance (open all days 10.00-17.00hrs)
  • Host circuit office
  • Brigades
  • Social activities bringing new people in
  • Messy Church (sweaty Church)
  • Life Skills (God-Centred)
  • Encourage others in positive experience of regular audits

Common Threads

  • Buildings/facilities are an important resource to be shared with others (especially community) & as a source of income
  • Talents: music, catering, professional people, journalistic skills
  • “Spiritual talents”: local preachers, worship leaders
  • Specific activities (that could be replicated elsewhere); Holiday at Home, Tuck Shop, Messy Church, Sweaty Church, Youth Club, Beer & Hymns
  • Young people’s uniformed activities

5. The Future

A selection of points taken from the Flipchart notes and the church reports:

  • Be who we are – do what we do but better – don’t get too big (Bethesda)
  • Midweek worship in “non-trad” form (Bethesda)
  • Help with Messy Church and other children’s activities, so as not to lose next generation of young people (Blackshawhead)
  • More time to feel spiritual (i.e. not just coffeee and cleaning) (Blackshawhead)
  • More middle-aged people (30-50 years) (Boothtown & Southowram)
  • Church members joining in (Boothtown & Southowram)
  • This church must be buzzing (Brighouse Central)
  • Let’s finish something (Brighouse Central)
  • Take church out into community (Brighouse Central)
  • Turn community contact into faith (Christ Church)
  • Youth Club meeting weekly (Christ Church)
  • Project worker (Christ Church)
  • 21st century environment in church (Clifton)
  • Engage more with community and CofE (Clifton)
  • Develop support to Christian charities (Hebden Bridge)
  • Support and expand our fellowship groups (Hebden Bridge)
  • Develop our hospitality (Hebden Bridge)
  • Back to Church initiative (Heptonstall)
  • Sunday school building sorted (Heptonstall)
  • Come to church to meet God and be challenged by the preaching (Highgate)
  • Prayer ministry & prayer diary (Highgate)
  • Broadened demographic (Illingworth Moor)
  • Nurture and replace volunteers/officers (Illingworth Moor)
  • Consider a “business manager” (Illingworth Moor)
  • Different styles of worship (café….) (Mount Tabor)
  • More use of information Technologies (Mount Tabor)
  • More young people (Mount Tabor)
  • Grow the congregation across all ages – find point of contact (probably through food)(Northowram)
  • Target for new people: Pantomime audiences, lunch club attendees, BB parents, residents of local; high-rise flats (Salem)
  • Continue to be a home for Battalion Band (Salem)
  • More people coming into the building, leading to greater fellowship (Southgate)
  • More mission to vulnerable people (Southgate)
  • Build for the future – not just buildings – land for community purposes – better use of site (St. Andrew’s)
  • Renew the spiritual feeling at Sunday services (St. Andrew’s)
  • Further develop mission via coffee morning. ;lunch club etc, - explore getting alongside secular groups using the church (St. Paul’s)
  • Learn to be comfortable sharing the Gospel outside the building (St. Paul’s)
  • Church space used every day (Stones)
  • Allow and enable younger people to take responsibilities (Stones)
  • Outreach to Older People’s Homes (Todmorden)
  • Restart mini-services at coffee mornings (Todmorden)
  • Improve communication between WLs, LPs and presbyters (WLs)
  • Group of WLs working across churches (WLs)

Common Threads

  • Wish to have more non-traditional worship. Help needed for this
  • More time devoted to spiritual development. A need for support for spiritual development
  • Develop mission via church activities (coffee mornings etc.) and to secular groups using the church (“Inreach”). Turn community contact into faith.
  • Build and develop for the future (and develop fellowship whilst doing it)
  • Use IT for communication and publicity (need help and training)
  • Continue with uniformed groups to help bring in children (more Inreach)
  • Take church out into the community and feel comfortable about proclaiming the faith
  • Outreach to older people (via Homes)
  • Involve young people (allow & enable them)
  • Make more use of WLs
  • Make church more interesting for people in their 40s, 50s, 60s (they have grandchildren)
  • Engage more ecumenically
  • Broaden demographic

6. What do we Need (Resources)?

A selection of points taken from the Flipchart notes and the church reports:

  • Help with Messy church and other children’s activities
  • Examples of good practice
  • Strengthen Churches Together
  • Youth worker
  • Family worker
  • Project worker
  • Lay worker in the community
  • Help with new forms of worship
  • More men!
  • Lay worker for mission & ministry
  • Top quality advice on buildings
  • Money
  • Spiritual support through rallies and fellowship
  • Access to experts with experience (especially property)
  • Good contractors' list
  • Resource to support & develop family & children’s ministry for those currently part of the church and also outreach to families in the community
  • Support (via training) to improve publicity and communication using IT for mission.
  • More ministerial support
  • Workforce (need to consider problems of age & abilities)
  • Prayer

Common Threads

  • Lay worker resource to support & develop family & children’s ministry for those currently part of the church and also outreach to families in the community
  • Specialised advice (especially property)
  • Examples of good practice
  • Help with embracing new forms of worship
  • Money
  • Spiritual development & support (fellowship, rallies..)

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