Alton Webteam: February 2016
"Reject isolation, join our community"
Which organisation do you think uses this statement?
You might think it is a church, but it is in fact JD Weatherspoon's, and it can be seen in advertising nationwide, as well as in Alton's Ivy House opposite our church building.
As my role as Pastoral Assistant ends its four year contract in six months, I have been thinking more deeply about "what does church mean to me", as I consider "what next"?
Do we come to church as a means of feeling less isolated, part of a community, as a social activity? Do we come as a way of learning more about God and Jesus? Is it part of our self- discipline to become a better person? Is it habit, which others have found met, by reading newspapers in a local cafe or working out in the gym?
Alton Methodist Church has become my second home; I have a key, so can pop in day or night, in silent moments and as part of my job; yet I can foresee a time when it is no longer there, when there is perhaps one multi-purpose building in Alton that is used by the Christian and non-Christian community (will we still have separate denominations?) as an office base and a venue for large scale gatherings.
The thought does not fill me with despair, although I know it will some.
Jesus' example was to care for others, particularly the marginalised; he travelled to meet people, taught them in various venues, relied on others for hospitality. Does this suggest a more outward facing attitude than churches often exhibit?
I still believe in the worth of pastoral care; in house groups and courses as a means of explaining, fostering and developing faith; of personal prayer, reading and Bible study as a journey of deepening spiritual enrichment.
Will the maintenance of large church buildings still be the outward representation of Christianity for another generation?
"Reject isolation, join our community" — but where will that community be?
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