i caught up with tony cant this week. tony is a great mission thinker, an aussie, worked with john smith for a season and is now ordained in the c of e. he is currently at st lukes church in walthamstow. here's how he has been applying his mission thinking to the area...
he has been looking for ways to get involved in the community rather than get the community involved in the church. one that came up was the start of a farmers market on sunday. the market was looking for a manager so tony took the role. so as a vicar he works at the farmers market every sunday instead of leading worship in the church building! it's relational stuff... then every market has a stall for a community project. tony as manager said that st lukes church would take it. every week they brew teas and coffees all day and give them away and chat with people and stall holders. so instead of being in church on sunday they are in the market place with the community. they have then developed some postcards to let people know about st lukes but in three designs - one for church people, one for dechurched and one for unchurched with the following straplines:
churched - welcome to st lukes on the high street your local anglican church
dechurched - disillusioned with church? you're not alone
unchurched - not interested in church? neither are we in the ways you are probably thinking about church
this is demanding for the church community - much more so than showing up for an hour on a sunday morning. the church meet for worship and fellowship on a weds night. it's a small church - around a dozen older people and then two families (i think). they are selling the building and working to get a house in the area and invest the money to create income for a sustainable future of a community living out mission on the hight st.
i think this is exactly the kind of imagination and risk taking the church needs. re-configuring around mission and reworking the assets towards sustaining the mission longer term. tony also functions as a chaplain to businesses and shops in the area, again spotting the opportunity to be present in the community.
here's the challenge - the existing church community are older and have been wonderful in coping with this shift but tony was saying how they could do with some more mission energy and imagination in the community to develop a more dynamic core. so if you are anywhere near walthamstow and are currently consuming religion on a pew but either bored or frustrated or too comfortable or want to do something more outward focused then go and join tony and co in their adventure.
This is so refreshing. Think I must have been born at the wrong time. In my days in the CofE a priest doing this instead of services in the building would have been hauled up before a consistory court for breaching Canon law. Good on you, Tony Cant! Bring it on!
Posted by: Paul Anthony Wallis | December 11, 2009 at 09:23 AM
That is exciting stuff. I've been thinking about iniatives such as 'back to church' sunday and, to be honest, this is what that sort of thing should be about.
I think the key finding is someone going out to spread the good news, rather than declaring 'i have good news come and listen'....before wondering why no one does.
Warm Regards Ever
Posted by: John Cooper | December 11, 2009 at 09:24 AM
How do they determine which postcard to give each person? We were joking about a friend's wedding plans yesterday (with said friend) about giving additional explanation sheets to the guests who weren't used to a church setting but then realising that this was pretty much the same as switching the traditional "bride or groom?" question for the more imposing "Christian or not?" Not so welcoming!
I'm all up for churches recognising that not everyone comes from the same viewpoint or history, and yes, it's hard to create single pieces of publicity which serve all of these, but how do we do it without widening the gaps, or making them more obvious?
Posted by: Rach | December 11, 2009 at 09:57 AM
Excellent post which have highlighted on my blog too, thanks for a great Friday cheering up post! http://bit.ly/91UtJ4
Posted by: BanksyBoy | December 11, 2009 at 03:32 PM
Hi Jonny, ta for the positive mention of our little endeavour!
Rach - we don't hsnd out the 'targeted' postcards unless we have got into a conversation with them as individuals and they have probably self-identified themselves, (as most do when they discover we are a church...)
Posted by: Ordinandy | December 11, 2009 at 09:37 PM
I am writing an essay at the moment on modes of mission and this example is just incredible. I have been getting depressed in my reading and thinking. I am really scared that when I get ordained in a couple of years time I will get lost in maintenance and not mission. This has really lifted me and sparked my imagination...thanks Jonny! Good timing!
Posted by: Phil G | December 12, 2009 at 05:35 PM
Phil G - where are you studying? If you're ever near E17 let me know, visitors are always welcome!
I'm a 2nd year ordinandy (OPM candidate) at SPTC in London, placed with Tony at St Luke's.
It should be said that we seem to be an atypical model of church missional approach, and - of course - that we are most definitely a work in progress
Posted by: Ordinandy | December 12, 2009 at 07:13 PM
I'd really love to have a look at the postcards... our buildings are surrounded by cafe culture and we're always looking for ways of engaging with the very varied crowds that come to our neighbourhood.
Posted by: Jeremy Greaves | December 13, 2009 at 10:41 PM
I second Jeremy. Is there any way we could see these postcards? Pictures up perhaps?
Posted by: Jonny McCormick | December 13, 2009 at 11:09 PM
That sounds like genius! I wish I was near Walthamstow. All best wishes to Tony and his fellow travellers,
Posted by: Kim | December 14, 2009 at 09:46 PM
"they are selling the building and working to get a house in the area and invest the money to create income". The last time I closed a church, we were advised that it had a negative commercial value. In the end we gave it away (nominally for £1) and then more than a million pounds was spent on it to provide training and accommodation for homeless young people. If the sale of this church makes them enough money to buy a house in London then they will be very blessed!
Posted by: John Bennett | December 15, 2009 at 11:18 AM