Today, the Ninth Sunday after Trinity, I want to look at “revival”, and how it might come to us in the Church of England.
The Church of England has, in recent years, been attempting to encourage a revival, or new growth. Along with the Methodist Church, they have set up Fresh Expressions, which encourages new forms of church for a fast changing world, working with Christians from a variety of denominations and traditions. It was initiated by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York with the Methodist Council. As I understand what Fresh Expressions is about, I think it’s an incredibly important initiative, and is doing great work in bringing people into the Church.
But what about revival for those already in the Church? I’m sure there are many who are benefiting from the Fresh Expressions movement, but I don’t think that’s who it is primarily aimed at. It would appear, from the various statistics published, that there are as many, if not more, leaving the Church as there are new people coming in. Should we be looking to change, or should we stay the same?
The answer seems quite obvious at first, we should change. If things were right as they are, people wouldn’t be leaving. But I’m not so sure the answer is as clear-cut as that. I’m not against Fresh Expressions or change in general, but I do like to think that change is being made for the right reasons, not just for the sake of it. I’m not like some Anglicans:
How many Anglicans does it take to change a light-bulb?
Change! Change!! My Grandmother gave that light-bulb!!!
Revival might mean learning to do what we already do better. I was recently contacted by The Prayer Book Society, following the post I made about the Nunc Dimittis. Amongst there aims are, “Upholding the worship and doctrine of the Church of England … as enshrined in the Book of Common Prayer”; and, “Encouraging the use of the Book of Common Prayer as the norm for all principal services …”. I love the timeless nature of the Book of Common Prayer, and was thrilled to hear from them. But I don’t think I can take up their offer to join them. If the Book of Common Prayer were all we had, I wouldn’t be terribly sad about it for me, but I don’t think it is right for all. I’m sure there are some congregations who it is absolutely right for, but they are probably in the minority.
I think for real revival, including amongst the existing membership, we need to find a middle way — typically Anglican. We need to be open for, and willing to, change, when that change is right for that particular congregation. But we also need to be open to, and willing to, stay the same, or even revert to former ways, when that is right for a particular congregation. One of the big strengths of the Church of England, and Anglicanism in general, is that it can, and does, support both extremes of that, and much more in between.
Revival amongst our current congregations will make them vibrant and far more appealing to those from outside. Revival may come through what we have already that is good, as well as that which is new, from the likes of Fresh Expressions. We need to learn to embrace it, however it comes, and however we’re led into by God.
revive your Church in our day,
and make her holy, strong and faithful,
for your glory’s sake
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Additional Collect for The Ninth Sunday after Trinity
is Copyright © The Archbishops Council