Over at the Beyond 400 website (where I wish people would get their heads around the fact that BUGB is NOT 400 years old, even if the Baptist 'movement' is, but that's another story) there is a fascinating comment from someone called Simon Goddard on this thread where he tells how his church drew up a 'bucket list' for itself as it marked its bicentenary.
The idea of a 'bucket list' is it's the things you really want to do before you die, as popularised by the film of the same name (which I haven't seen). Specifically it refers to lists drawn up by people who know their own death is not so far off because they have life-limiting or terminal conditions. The poster links the idea to churches being willing to take risks rather than simply plodding on with the status quo, potentially leading to a quiet demise.
I think having been confronted with my own mortality very sharply in the last year or so has impacted the way I look at life, though not sure it has made me more of a risk taker... the idea that "I'm going to die anyway so why not do this risky thing that my hasten that but be fun" does not cross my radar. At the same time, it has made me much more 'present-minded' and, I'd like to think, a bit more spontaneous than I used to be (still not VERY spontaneous, but a teensy weensy bit more so).
All of which makes me think a bit about churches and church-death and bucket-lists and risk-taking and such like.
Firstly, church-death. Churches die, that's just a fact. So many times it bores me, I have reminded congregations that they won't find 'First Church Corinth' or 'Ephesus Apostolic' as they are long gone and forgotten. Church-with-a-capital-C lives on, churches don't. There is nothing wrong with churches dying, but often I fear they settle for slow demise rather than potential-releasing-euthanasia (where here euthanasia has its literal meaning of a 'good death'). How many near-dead churches exist on life-support, draining the life-blood from the Church, when if they died, people, money (often a lot of it, tied up in buildings) could be released to new work with and for God. As I type this, remember, I am not anti-small church, I cut my ministerial-teeth in a very special small church that wrestled with these very questions. Helping churches to 'die well' is a valid ministry, and actually I suspect ought to be on any 'bucket list' BUGB might wish to compile.
Secondly, church-character. Some churches are more naturally risk-taking than others, some find it easy (relatively) to try new and risky things, others don't. But I have a feeling that present-mindedness - rootedness in the 'here and now' allows a greater degree of safe-enough spontaneity even for more risk-averse churches. If 'now' is all we have (and it is) then how do we best use that time? Earlier in the week I posted about the 'joy of the present moment' and from time to time have alluded to the wonder of ordinariness'. These are important and valid counters to any sense that everything on a bucket-list must be exciting or new or good-scary. To do the ordinary well, to take delight in offering the best we can, is, I think, a good thing in and of itself. This does not mean stagnating, since procrastination is proscribed, but it does mean that we are freed to enjoy the less 'whiz bang' if that's simply 'not us'.
At a personal level, I don't have a bucket list. That's not just because I am not under 'sentence of death' but because, actually, there is nothing I can think of that I would feel 'cheated' if I didn't do or would regret if I became unable to do it. At the same time, I am starting to plan overseas holidays, having always been more than content with staying in Britain, not because I feel I 'really must' see X or Y, but because I think, 'well, why not?' I don't have a list of places to go, instead I trust the friends I choose to go with to make the choices. I wonder if the same may be true at a church or denominational level? Rather than a tick-list before we die, a sense of liberation that arises from recognising our own (individual and corproate) mortality? If we can learn to say 'why not...' rather than 'why' then that seems a good thing. I wonder too, which travelling companions we might pick and entrust with the destination choices... but that's another train of thought entirely.
*** I added a 'button' to link the site (thanks Andy G for mailing me one that fits, the one I got from the site doesn't!!) .... Anyone is welcome to contribute to the online conversation***