Church is a movement, not an exhibit… Let me elaborate.
There’s a tale from South America about a family and their prize possession, a wonderful old car. They spend so much time polishing the paintwork, dusting the upholstery, generally checking it over; they really love their car. They spend time sat in the car too, telling stories of journeys with all the hazards you might meet, and also, all the exciting things you might get to see. At special times they even invite in their friends and neighbours to share in these celebrations and the family can get very emotional for they are very nice people. But everyone knows that in reality, the car never leaves the garage. It would be far too risky out on the open road, dusty, noisy, unpredictable; you never know what might happen.
Made up tale that may be, but every so often the principle crops up in the classic car press when an old car is discovered with a really low mileage. One such was a 1970 Triumph Herald that had covered a mere 1300 miles from new and the reporter asked “could you drive it?” To which the answer is “Yes, of course I could drive it otherwise what’s the point of a car?”
And the Church should be seen in exactly the same way, because the Church is a movement, not an exhibit. The church does need to do ‘churchy stuff’ like services and prayer groups and bible study because that is where we are fed and replenished – just like all cars need to visit the filling station (or plug socket). But if the church is only ever conducted inside the building, its like we’re playing games in garages and that won’t do.
Which is why at St George’s we open the doors to a range of activities to ensure a flow of people and their needs and joys into the building and out to the community. However, by the time you read this in the autumn, I’m hoping that we will have gone a stage further and begun taking church itself out into the streets.
The model is called StreetKlub and it comes from Canterbury where it has worked brilliantly. The plan is to set up a gazebo, table, drinks and activities and simply be there, out on the open road if you will. We’re available to chat to, exchange ideas and get to know each other perhaps in a way we might not have otherwise done so. And if you just want to stop for a drink, that’s OK too. And whilst this might seem all hip and trendy, or to some, desperate, it isn’t actually new and it is very effective; great preachers and hymn writers have been doing it for years, just look at the Wesleys or William Williams who gave us the fantastic hymn ‘Guide me O Thou great Redeemer’. The last verse of that hymn starts with ‘when I tread the verge of Jordan’ – nothing static about that because the church is really not meant to be an exhibit; it is a movement.