A Reality Check
There has been a noticeable decline in church attendance since Alf left us. Last Sunday I counted 28 worshippers of whom 3 were under 60 years of age. Considering that we were celebrating Holy Communion, the monthly highlight in our observance of Christian practice, it should be of serious concern. However, it is anticipated that it will be offset with a much better showing at this month’s café service, which I regard more in the nature of a social gathering with table topics. To put this in perspective I refer back to the Church Attendance Survey that I reported on in the previous issue of this newsletter. It indicated to me that the majority of our congregation placed greater emphasis on social interaction and fellowship than religious observance and expression. If this is the case we need to take stock of such prevailing attitudes to define who we are and where we want to go. Putting the setback in our petition for building structural classification aside, any increased social activity as the preferred alternative to congregational development, renders it no longer fit for purpose. This has been evident with several well attended funerals, when the facilities were unable to cope, both in respect of holding capacity and parking.
I fully appreciate that older members have an emotional attachment spanning a life time that has to be taken into consideration in any future decisions regarding our Church, but has to be mitigated by a serious deficiency of younger family members to succeed the older generation. The situation is aggravated in the protracted absence of dependable and capable ministry. A church without a pastor is like a ship without a captain. There are the additional challenges of a steadily decreasing human resource pool to fill rosters and positions on Church Council. Those holding the fort are hard pressed to meet all demands and consideration may have to be given to curtail certain activities that exceed capacity. Added to this is a funding shortfall that is unlikely to be remedied under such conditions.
From hearsay I understand that our Elders have been presented with some alternatives of strategic direction, which they will share with the rest of the congregation after due consideration. Without being privy to the advice given, I confine myself to the key decision that has to supersede everything else and comes down to not only where we want to go, but how do we see ourselves and what do we want to be? If we have lost or are in danger of losing the religious purpose of our community in favour of becoming a social charitable structure with a faith based affiliation, we need to redefine our purpose. Leaving this matter unresolved will result in members with strongly held beliefs drifting off to other congregations who better serve their needs with a form of worship and pastoral care that is presently lacking at St Aidans. If this were these case the future depends on new and younger members joining, who share the desire of a remaining cohort for social interaction with engaging activities.
It is sad to have to raise these concern so close the observance of Christ’s birth in the Church calendar at the conclusion of our annual programme in the expectation that it will engender serious thought and resolve for implementation in the year ahead.