Today is the Ninth Sunday after Trinity. The phrase I want to pick up on from today’s Collect is, “Revive your Church in our day”. I wonder how “revival” might come to today’s Church, and especially to the Church of England.
The Church of England has, for some years now, been attempting to encourage a revival, or new growth. Along with the Methodist Church, they 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 in the Church who are benefiting from the Fresh Expressions movement, but I don’t think they’re who it’s primarily aimed at. It would appear, from the various statistics published, 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!!!
I particularly like a Book of Common Prayer Evensong, and think there is space within our Churches for more services from that part of our heritage. I love the timeless nature of the Book of Common Prayer, and the feeling it gives of joining with Christians in prayer over many centuries. However, as much as I love and value the Book of Common Prayer, I wouldn’t want it for all services. I would cope if it were all we had, but there has been a great deal of excellent work done in recent years on our liturgy, culminating in Common Worship; though I’m still most comfortable with a relatively traditional service.
There are many Church congregations around who, like me, are more comfortable with the relatively traditional styles of worship. There are also many Church congregations around who find the traditional tedious, and want their worship to be lively and modern. 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 might mean learning to do what we already do better. 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.
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