...because you let me
The Director of ministry applies the scientific method to church building.
There has been a hypothesis floating in my head for a while. It goes something like this, ‘If incarnation missionary processes are applied in contemporary Tasmanian subcultures then it is possible to build something recognisable as an Anglican Church.’ (The scientists among us can have permission to stop laughing now. The theologians can wipe away their tears.)
In simple terms, I am thinking that if we sent missionaries into communities that have turned their backs on existing forms of church then there is no reason that God would not build new faith communities just as he has in other times. Those new faith communities may enrich the diversity already clearly evident across the Anglican Communion.
Along the scientific lines it is possible to have something to measure. A recognisable Anglican church is a group of people gathering together around the ministry of the sacraments and the word. It is possible to develop and test an array of hypotheses. If you try certain things, observe and measure the results against what was expected to happen. I know I am going to get caught in the scientific analogy if I don’t get to safer ground quickly. That safer ground for me is the incarnational missionary process.
How do you start a new church from nothing?
The Anglican Fresh Expressions group in the United Kingdom recently published a very useful diagram. It helps get a feel for how the building of the new church community may progress. The diagram makes it absolutely clear that nothing is going to happen without prayer, support, listening to and following God’s call and purpose. Whoever drew the diagram uses the wavy line technique to indicate that this process can never be tied down to the ‘one shape fits all’ principle.
This is a long-haul process of loving service, building community and disciple-making that slowly takes the shape of the recognisable Anglican Church.
I can’t help but think about Meredith Campbell and the Heartz ministry team ministering in the Huon Valley. (See photo Below) They believe, hope and pray that living amongst, serving and loving particular interest groups in the Huon will allow the process caught in the diagram to emerge in that context.
In Meredith’s recent prayer letters (Do you get them? Please ask.) there are very good signs of acts of loving service. A derelict picker hut which is home to a local woman has been repainted. A small community is building around a core group of about five people. Community horse rides, breakfast and art group are all good signs. Requests for prayer, wise counsel and even a couple working through a Christianity Explored course are wonderful signs of the emergence of disciple-making. It is small, fragile and totally dependent on our support but the formative journey is well and truly happening.
It doesn’t look like an Anglican church yet, at least not by my definition, but Meredith is hoping and praying that it will get there in God’s time. I am sure that it will.