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What Happens Next?

On Monday night 18 good folk from Dibley, plus their 'vicar' and 17 from D+1, plus their 'moderator' met at D+2 whose minister chaired our first joint meeting to talk about what my apologetics tutor used to call "possible futures."  It was an interesting experience, and since then I've acted as punching bag for a few of my folk who needed to vent their frustration.  The big question that emerges is of course, what happens next... and the short answer is I really don't know.  I have some thoughts on process but most folk seem hung up on content, and specific bits of it at that.  Time will undoubtedly tell...

In the meantime, I have been working with the parable of the unfruitful fig tree in Luke (rather than the zapping of the fig tree that happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time in Matt/Mark) and the Johannine vine imagery ready for Sunday's joint service.  Is it maybe time to call a spade a spade (or more biblically, an axe an axe)?

Reading around the fig tree story has given me a very different perspective on it.  It takes three years from planting for a fig tree to reach maturity, after which it produce fruit.  A devout, Leviticus obeying Jew in Jesus' time would also have known that the first three years' fruit was forbidden and the next year's had to be given as a thank offering to God.  Thus seven years would pass by before the grower could benefit from the harvest of figs.  Once a fig tree begins to fruit, seemingly in those conditions it will be in fruit for up to 10 months a year (which makes it even tougher on the poor zapped fig tree).  Whether the tree in the story was three years old when the landowner first came to look for fruit or seven years old (i.e. not until after he could enjoy it) is a moot point, the fact is that he kept coming back for three years and found nothing.  Fed up, he told the gardener to cut it down.  The story ends with the plea from the gardener for one more last chance... but what happens next?

The vine imagery with its ideas of grafting and pruning is one I have worked with on and off over a number of years.  Reading it this week the fate of the unfruitful branches also struck me, but I chose to stay with the fruitful ones that get pruned... but once again the question remains, what happens next?

Sunday's sermon feels like a high risk strategy, allowing the reality of these stories (which is rather scary) to speak to us and ask us precisely this question 'what happens next?'  Time for these two churches is not infinite and if we don't do something - so there are some new shoots for a new season of growth then, axe-bearing land owner or not, we will surely die.

It is a little tough for my folk who, on the whole have come miles in their thinking and doing. It will undoubtedly be tough for D+1 who, if they are honest, know they face almost certain death unless they do something very soon.  I worry about what  my sermon might do to them, and then I go back and re-read the passage used at my induction from Jeremiah's call 'to uproot and to tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.'  In case the preacher is reading (and he will in due course, I'm sure) I do not have a Messiah complex, am not into meaningless gestures but perhaps I am a very naughty girl.  Three years ago, I heard 'build and plant,' for almost two years I have served an 'uprooted' community - am I now about to destroy?  Scary.

So, what happens next?  If I escape without being linched on Sunday I will let you know.


  • He is reading - hope everything goes well on Sunday. Sometimes what is needed is a bit of courage to tell the truth: it will be fine.

  • OK, so no big stuff on the horizon then!! At least you have a handle on reality, loads of churches I see just bury their heads and wait for the inevitable. You at least have something to say that may call them into life, or lead them positively into an end. I'll pray for nerves of steel and a coating of Teflon (so any backlash won't stick). ;-)

    Oh, and thanks for the fair trade info. You are right about the core competencies. They really need looking at!

  • "Is it maybe time to call a spade a spade (or more biblically, an axe an axe)?"
    In Yorkshire of course a spade is a bloody shovel...

    Seeking to mirror reality back to a congregation so as the truth is staring them in the face is tough. 'Soft focusing' the edges with vaseline has been tried, most especially in the 70's, and the results are not great.

    God bless you as you try to serve them faithfully. I would be interested in how it pans out, and will look at you blog with interest.

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