I’d like to begin with two quotations (1st bold type, 2nd italics)
“Hundreds of chapels, which are certainly redundant in the light of modern needs, are kept open by a handful of tired people who often display an astonishing repugnance that they should worship with their Methodist neighbours across the road.”
This statement, with a little updating, could have been written today by any one of us, yet it was written in 1938 by WE Sangster (Methodism Can Rise Again). The only real change that would need to be made would be, “they should worship with their Methodist neighbours at a nearby Methodist Church.”
A wise man once said that those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat the mistakes.
When are we finally going to have the courage to close our redundant chapels kept open by a handful of tired people?
The words above appeared on my screen via a Facebook group for Methodist ministers on January 3rd this year and they sounded deeply resonant.
As we begin this calendar year, the North Kirklees & Morley Methodist Circuit is facing change as the new connexional year (1st September) will mean 2 fewer ministers than now. SPACE is also in the midst of reduced ministry numbers and the prospect of uncertainty of supply – where there is no vision there may be no provision.
“The maintenance of the institution saps the life of the best people and leaves many, even of those who have the inclination, too weary for the real work that Methodism exists to do.”
When the NK&M circuit met fully in Drighlington last summer some were fearful we would lose what we have (our own churches and way of doing things). We were also challenged with the possibility of letting go and letting God; of pooling the resources we have in new and radical ways to create something vibrant, not merely viable, that would glorify God and draw people to Jesus.
When Sangster wrote his words from Leeds just before WWII the church had been declining year on year since its peak in 1898. During WWII he was minister at Westminster Central often to congregations 3000+ in number. He preached typically for 30-45 minutes and when air raid warnings came he would say “Those of a nervous disposition may leave now.”; few did.
I wonder again, how are we prepared to let go and let God in order to release his blessing? What are we prepared to risk despite the attrition surrounding us and answer the questions Sangster is still asking?
Superintendent Minister, North Kirklees and Morley Methodist Circuit.