The more we talk about new models of training candidates at college, the more i get to dreaming about the shape of the church in the future. it's a big dream. it's a tough one to realise. i don't even know exactly what it looks like.
but yesterday i was reminded of the sketched outline in my head, because the shape of church i have a vision for includes a new shape for ordained ministry. it's something like a picture alan hirsch and michael frost described in a book they wrote - i'll update with details later. instead of bigger churches only, where we compromise the shape of worship to cater for many, might we have many smaller worshipping / church / faith communities, whose worship / gathering is an authentic experience for a few. these many smaller communities might have predominantly voluntary & lay leadership, and form networks for the experience of connectedness to the wider body of Christ. these networks might form larger gatherings irregularly, around an international prayer day, or something, and they might pool resources to employ an ordained minister who could provide pastoral, teaching, creative, visioning, support and encouragement for the lay teams. as Andrew Dutney described in a conversation yesterday, this type of ordained minister would be more a teacher, dreamer, enabler, than the practitioner who does the ministry with the communities themselves. As i record this, i feel i am describing the kind of ministry i would like to engage in, and hope and pray with some earnestness for the opportunity to do that. i honestly believe that this is one step forward for the body of Christ to continue to grow, to engage with the wider community, bearing witness to the Sacred in our world. There are people beginning to live out this and similar visions/dreams, and we need many more to be bold and brave, and dream big.
I am aware that the relationship of such small communities to the wider, institutional church is going to take some developing - how do they financially and practically support the work of such organisations as UCWesley - think i blogged about that recently. we have to try. we live in a world in which people do not 'go to church' as a matter of course on a sunday. we do live in a world in which people are searching for authentic experiences of God, for relationship, for communities in which their spirituality, their faith, their relationship with the Sacred can be nurtured and encouraged.
So as I prepare for my trip to the UK, to meet with others who are dreaming and living out the dream of re-emerging expressions of communities of Christ, I hope I can start adding colour and detail to my sketchy picture of the shape of church in SA for the future - watch this space!