‘Rugged, proud and uniquely beautiful’ is how Wales, apparently, is described from space.
Dan suggests that we, as a church, are not exactly this, but rather ‘strong, modest and uniquely beautiful…. and also terrifying to those outside!’.
I don’t suppose we are particularly terrifying as individuals, but as a church we are, because to many people any church is terrifying… and for all kinds of reasons.
There is the physical building, especially one like ours which imposes a brick wall of secrecy to anyone walking down Gelliwastad Rd, and makes sure that only the very determined find a way in. Then there are the things we do and say in church: the praying, sharing bread and wine, singing words that sometimes don’t make sense and sometimes make, perhaps, too much sense and threaten a comfortable world view.
And then, of course, is the presumed judgement on people’s lives. Churches are supposed to disapprove of everything that’s fun, aren’t they? And Christians think they are so much better, don’t they?
St David’s Uniting Church has the ingredients, says Dan, to be the kind of church that cares more about ‘you’ than it cares about the church! To be a church that offers a radical welcome.
We had asked Dan, as he nears the end of his 9 month period with us, to offer some reflections on where we were as a church and what we might build on for the future. In a session that followed the morning service (and lunch) on 28th May, he shared some of his observations and thoughts.
‘Technical fixes’ won’t solve the underlying problem of a steady decline in churches over the last 45 years, but a couple of things that the church might usefully address are:
- Communication with the local community. Are we ‘Ponty’s best kept secret’? We could make better use of notices and banners, of social media and use our voices to let people know we are here, what we are about, and that they are welcome.
- Sunday worship. Two traditional services on a Sunday makes big demands on any minister, and leaves less time and energy available for actively engaging with the wider community (and our ‘vision’ will require a considerable amount of community oriented work to be done). Moreover, two Sunday schools, meeting simultaneously on a Sunday morning at Church House and in town, misses the opportunity for children to be part of a larger, vibrant community.
St David’s Uniting has already sketched out an exciting new vision for seeking and working with church and secular partners, to make a difference in Rhondda Cynon Taf. This new vision will give plenty of opportunity to ‘take stock’, as it is thought through and fleshed out. It may naturally prompt changes, in response to new partnerships and priorities.
These are challenging but exciting times, indeed.