As we at All Hallows look to a new phase in the life and ministry of the church in this part of Leeds I want to put some thoughts together to help us in our thinking, praying and discussing.
Our use of the church building has for some time been a moot point, with some of the worshipping congregation expressing feelings about having to be responsible for maintaining the place – and some feeling that if we weren’t so focused on the building we might have more freedom to focus on people. Some talk of the importance of the community cafe to local people and our responsibility as the parish church to the deprived community around the church. Others point to the stunning location and its potential for enhancing worship and (importantly) attracting paying users of the multi-use space. There are those who see the church as deserving investment to make it financially and environmentally sustainable. Again, we are not the only group who use the church – in the week there are many people for whom the building is an important focal point in their lives. And there are issues like our ministry to LGBT people and others who are marginalised, excluded or damaged by life.
At present the feeling in the leadership of the church is that our way forward under God is to try our best to stay in this building and we are slowly exploring all that needs to be done to achieve that. At the same time there is an awareness that we have big task in front of us and we need to be open to all God’s guiding on this as the exploring continues. So recently we held an all-church afternoon to look at these things and our views, mixed as they are, are all displayed in church for everyone to see and add to. We shall shortly be summarising the outcomes of this process.
It seems to me that it is absolutely essential that whatever we do in terms of the building – and in fact all of our resources – we must be led by our vision of what God is asking us to do and be, both here in the parish and in the places where we live, work, study etc…
The model of how the Christian Church operates is changing and we here need to be able to minister to a rapidly-changing world. Perhaps one of the things we need to be open to is not just changing the externals but allowing the Spirit of God to change our view of the needs in the world around us… the 43% of the children in this parish who live in poverty… the many students who are our parishioners… what are we doing about them? Do they matter to us? What else is God calling us to?
What is at stake is not just what happens to ‘our church’ but the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ in as well as beyond the parish. Please spend time in your daily prayers earnestly asking God for guidance in these matters and for grace as we continue to discuss and listen to each other’s views.