What’s the ‘Regenerating the Church’ strategy?
In the Uniting Church in Australia, regions are divided into particular groups called ‘Presbyteries’. The Port Phillip West Presbytery is a large part of the Western region of Melbourne. The ‘Regenerating the Church’ strategy document sets out the Port Phillip West Presbytery’s vision of a culture that embraces and nurtures new models of missional Church both within and beyond existing congregations and places of ministry. It outlines the way the Presbytery will support congregations and places of ministry to undertake such an exploration. It was adopted by the Presbytery in 2013, and agreed on as the way forward for Port Phillip West.
Why do we need to regenerate the church?
Several decades ago, belonging to a church was seen for many as an important part of life. Tennis clubs, womens’ groups, social events, children’s clubs, youth groups, large Sunday schools and their anniversaries formed an important part of community life. Much change has taken place since then. Sundays are for many the same as any other day. There are now many faiths in our community, and there are many ways to belong in the community provided by a range of organisations. Social attitudes have also changed. Some people find meaning in Christian faith, but many others find meaning in a range of places and connections and are not looking for a church to belong to. The Christian story is known by fewer and fewer people. All this has commonly led to an understanding that aiming to attract people to the traditional model of Church will not always be effective.
Fresh Expressions of Church
What is now recognised is that as a Church, we have come to a new stage in our history, and that God is leading the Christian community to offer new forms of Church to the community. This means new models of Church – not just doing things a bit differently but a way of being church that is accessible to people, and missional – that is, holding together justice, service, and making disciples. Have a look at this Youtube clip about fresh expressions of Church in the UK.
This might mean meeting where people already are rather than in a church building…..perhaps establishing a walking group that hikes to beautiful places and breaks bread together ……..offering a community meal with time for God just after dessert…………developing a form of worship based around gospel and culture in film and meeting in a local cinema……developing a missional community that shares life together and meets around a meal in a pub….
As a result, what is experienced in many places is the development of new communities of faith, which include people with no, or only a distant experience of Church. In this we see afresh the human need to connect with the spiritual, and the welcoming and creative God who continues to call people into the family of God in new ways.
Will we abandon existing congregations and places of ministry?
The Presbytery values and wants to promote what Archbishop Rowan Williams described as a ‘mixed economy’. Some congregations will continue to attract members, and remain healthy and vibrant. However new expressions of church will also grow, perhaps within existing congregations, beyond existing congregations, or the existing congregation may become a new expression of church.
May we have the courage and the imagination to respond to the call of Christ in our day.
REVIEW: Regenerating the Church Strategy
So three years down the track, how did it go?
In April 2016 as planned, a review commenced of the Regenerating the Church strategy. This review was conducted by Shawn Whelan, a professional facilitator, consultant and the Chair of the Brunswick Uniting Church Council. The review team was also made up of a representative from the Mission Strategy and Education (MSE), Pastoral Relations (PRC), Administration, Property and Finance (APF), and Intercultural (ICC) Committees of the Presbytery. There were a range of engagements undertaken by this team. Importantly, each congregation across the Presbytery, and participants of the 2013 – 2016 Strategy programs had the opportunity to contribute to the review process through survey responses. This has been a thorough engagement process of the whole of the Presbytery. The review indicates that the Strategy has had a significant and very positive impact on the development of mission and new contextual expresssions of Church in the Presbytery.
The 2021 Regenerating the Church Strategy
During the review of the 2013 – 2016 Strategy, the many learnings from our strategic experience as a Presbytery were gathered. In the light of our learnings, needs and hopes, we sought in prayer and discussion God’s call for the next phase of our life together. This led to the identification of a new vision, objectives and measures for the next 5 years, that is, the 2021 Regenerating the Church Strategy. Please feel free to read or download this document here.