i loved this article by simon jenkins at the weekend. because it was easter i wasn't online much so i have no idea if it caught many peoples attention. but this is exactly the kind of imagination i love - creatively thinking about a different set of possibilities and then redesigning the present on that basis. i have blogged about the idea of future present before, we held a day on it, and i am happy to say we are working on a zine/book future present that will come out this summer - watch this space.
i fear simon jenkins article may be received negatively by church goers as his motivation is not so much about the church (as the followers of christ) but the church (as building). he loves churches as heritage, places to visit and wants them to be places that anyone in the community feels is theirs so suggests nationalising them. the way this might work is that a local trust could be set up in a village say with a small tax or its own means of fundraising. it would be important to have some places on the board reserved for christians in the community and the right to use the church for worship on a sunday or whatever was deemed appropriate in the context. and given the small numbers in so many villages that might be use of the chancel or something. then the building can be kept, visited and used for community purposes as the trust agree together. in quite a lot of places there aren't that many community spaces. so churches could be really useful in that regard. stir magazine currently have a pilot project exploring the use of churches in relation to community enterprise and initiative.
why is this a good idea? i think it would be a huge relief to many groups of christ followers to reimagine their task as following christ and not managing a building. there's nothing wrong with buildings of course but they are a burden when communities become older and small which is true in many spaces. pete ward in his book liquid church suggested that church as heritage is an unhelpful mutation we would do well to be freed up from. secondly this helps churches reconnect with their community which is a key part of being the church. it's so ironic that the situation is so bad in some places now that those outside the church are saying - come on connect with the community! the church is way too withdrawn in lots of places so this would be a great move to build relationships and share community work together.
how could this happen? i think the best way would be to get some pilot test cases - spaces where there is an openness and willingness to give something like this a try. what is there to lose? this could be a fresh expression of church (as building) and a fresh expression of church (as communities of disciples).
[update - since posting someone sent me a link to an article published on the same day about a government pilot scheme to help churches think about use and community engagement]