Tonight was the Dibley & District Churches Together AGM - the start of my second year as Chair. It was hardly a dynamic affair, which is a shame because as Churches Together groups go, we do well with a lot of shared activities. But getting opinions and ideas reminded me of a phrase about stones and blood.
One of the things that troubles me greatly, and has done ever since I arrived, is the general air of negativity that abounds - low self esteem, low expectations and truckloads of criticisms. It's hard work not to get sucked into it, and I guess tonight shows how often I fail in my endeavours!
Towards the end of the meeting, which had eventually been quite productive with one or two good ideas identified for the next year of events, I asked each church (congregation, since there are four Anglican church buildings with a total of 3 congregations sharing 1.5 clergy in a united benefice) to identify one item for rejoicing and one for prayer. I knew I was on a loser when Church A identified as a cause for rejoicing, "we're still here". This set the tone for a relentless round of the same. Only Church E had something to tell that spoke of hope and a future.
I was dismayed and, to my shame, said that my person had given a very gloomy view of where we are, since we are very active (or so I think!). There's nothing like a minister with foot in mouth needing to apologise!
But is this cause for celebration? Is survival enough? My instinct says a loud and hearty 'no' but what if everyone else feels otherwise? I guess there are some congregations for whom having survived is an achievement, and maybe for my folk who have survived the loss of their treasured bricks and mortar, perhaps there's a hint of justification. But for the other four, with secure buildings and centrally funded, almost guaranteed ministers...?
Thank goodness Pentecost is just around the corner with its celebration of the empowering of the early church for mission. Perhaps we can dream dreams and see visions and rejoice in the new thing God is already doing.