‘The road less travelled’
On a recent family walk, and unsure which path brought us to our destination, we spotted a signpost. Thinking it would settle the question of our route, we wandered up to it. When we looked it simply said ‘Public Footpath’. So we did have to get the map out and work out for ourselves where we were and which was the right path to take. The signpost wouldn’t do the work for us.
By now we had hoped the builders would be moving in to do the next phase of our re-ordering work. Unfortunately, the bank from whom we were seeking a loan (which specialises in lending to churches and has told us it is favourable towards our application) cannot free up funds for a few more months.
At the same time, there are a number of other developments in our life at St. Mary’s which were under discussion at the July meeting of the Parochial Church Council which, taken together with the re-ordering news, might cause us to stop and ponder. They may, of course, just be a series of events which have randomly come together. But if we truly believe God to be leading us somewhere (and are not just paying lip-service to the idea), we should ask whether there might be something in the ‘signs of the times’ we should notice.
For instance, may the delays in the re-ordering work be a direct challenge to us to test just how committed and serious we are about the project? Are we prepared to go on being patient, prayerful and persistent, and to back our commitment with serious financial giving?
Or, might we be in danger of thinking a re-ordered building will solve automatically all our issues about future growth in mission? Perhaps we are being told we can’t have it all on a plate. Like the signpost saying ‘public footpath’ we have to work out for ourselves what kind of route we want to go down, what kind of
church we want to be in the future. Perhaps we’re being asked to develop a clearer, more effective strategy for mission before we have a re-ordered church, and challenged to take steps now towards that future, not simply say ‘when we have a re-ordered building……..’
At the July P.C.C. we approved several new developments. We are to invest in ‘Godly Play’ – a way of accessing the Christian story which, despite its title, can be used equally with adults and with young children. We are to start up an adult discussion group, something which outside of Lent we have rarely had and, I believe, badly need. You cannot build a Christian community on Sunday worship and social contacts alone.
With Mike Wasey now standing down after nine years as organist and choir director, Fiona McAvoy is taking over responsibility for the choir from September. There is an opportunity for us to re-appraise the role music plays in our worship, and to consider new possibilities. We shall be having visiting organists for the Parish Communion for the rest of this year. But there are few good organists around who are available even on an occasional basis, and they come at a price. So Evening Prayer will become a said service from August onwards. There will not be a sermon: Derek Buckthorpe, for example, is going to use the time previously given to preparing an evening sermon for a small number of people to develop a regular drama group. Again, it is reaching out in a new direction, and putting our resources into mission and growth.
In all of these strands there seems to be a pattern emerging: that God wants us to get on and be the church of the future and not just wait for the church to be re-ordered. For some it may mean a departure from familiar paths, with no certainty about the route ahead. The poet Robert Frost wrote: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less travelled by. And that has made all the difference”.
So often in the Christian story, the ‘road less travelled’ has been the way God has guided his people.