For most folk nowadays, the simple parables of the Lord need explaining in two ways: not only what they mean, but actually what activities like scattering the seed and bringing in the sheaves might be; the agricultural metaphors which came so naturally to Jesus do so less easily in our urban society.
We have a meeting of elders tomorrow night to discuss our plans as a church; even churches have to have ‘mission statements’, by which is not meant what it would have meant when I was younger – we go out and preach the word. We have three main ‘headings’: ‘A Church for everyone; a living church; and a faithful church’. I’ve tried calming down and humming, I’ve tried going for a walk, I’ve tried emptying my mind and watching the birdies; but I still feel the urge to throw something out of the window – quite possibly the ‘consultant’ herself. But saying ‘what the blue blazes would you expect from a church is not this?’ is not, I am told, the sort of ‘constructive suggestions’ to be expected of the eldest elder; I daresay it is precisely what my fellow elders expect of me – they’ve enough experience.
So. we’re told we have to be ‘children-friendly’ because they are ‘the future’ and that our homilies should in some way be ‘accessible’ to the ‘kids’. I hate to tell them, but the kids from round here tend to grow up and move to Manchester and Leeds, so, whatever future they’ll be part of, it isn’t likely to be the one here. We must not, we are told, forget the elderly; you know, given the age of the congregation, that’s not likely. We must ‘welcome new people’. Quite how we’re going to get them is never revealed, but then since it nowhere mentions actual preaching the Gospel, that’s not a great surprise. We should, we are told be ‘a vibrant, thriving community of the faithful, living out our faith in the church and in our day-to-day lives’. Well I never. I thought that was what we were; perhaps I have been asleep? Perhaps I need more sleep – the presentation tomorrow seems an ideal opportunity.
Maybe the deep breaths are working though, because for all my irritation with the management-jargon, I ought to acknowledge the time and effort of the member who gave of both to compile this; she’s a well-paid job in Manchester where she does this for a good deal of money, and she’s done it for us because her family are members of the church. She’s also force even the curmudgeons amongst us to thing about what we can do to bring in fresh folk. We’ve lost half a dozen in the last year, and recruited about the same, so numbers are stable, but I’m not the only one who feels we could be doing more, so this will be an opportunity for us to, prayerfully, explore modern methods of ploughing and scattering the good seed on the land.
It is not, after all, as though there is not a lot of work to be done – though the labourers are fewer than we were, and some of us not as young as we once were. But if we put our efforts in, the Lord will give the harvest.