In June, we asked for feedback on our Sunday Gatherings and mentioned that we were reviewing what we will do in the Autumn. Thanks so much for the feedback, which has helped us discern some next steps. Before I explain what we are doing, I’d like to say a few words about the reasons why.
I believe gathering as a church family or community of faith is essential – it is a place of encountering the presence of God, growing as disciples of Jesus, and connecting in community with others. When we faithfully commit to spiritual practices (such as gathering together), over time it transforms us. Some weeks are more transforming than others, but that is not the point. It is the faithful, consistent, regular practice of gathering that transforms – as a church family and as individuals. And we want to intentionally shape our Sunday Gatherings that enable presence, discipleship and community, to enable that transformation.
But also it is a place of welcome: where we can welcome others into our community, perhaps at various stages of their faith journey. Our gathering needs to have an eye towards those who are ‘beyond’, to those God is joining into our faith family, or those curious about faith & wanting to explore. This mission, or outward focus, is the fourth key commitment (along with presence discipleship and community) that is shaping our thinking on what we do.
However, we can’t do everything in the short time we have on a Sunday. Despite common parlance, we can’t “go to church”. We are the church, and the church is still the church on Monday morning as much as Sunday morning. And we can’t expect that an hour and half, once a week, is enough to connect us to God, help us grow as disciples, build community and welcome those beyond. We can’t put all our eggs in one basket! So we are looking to shape our Sunday gatherings around these 4 commitments, whilst recognising that there will be other opportunities during the rest of the week, to individually and corporately engage.
Let me give you and example: many of us have missed our corporate worship and singing. I loved our extended times of worship on Sunday mornings prior to March 2020. But I know others found it more challenging, especially those with younger children. For a few years, we have realised that things need to change. So going forward, we are going to experiment with shorter times or worship most Sundays and let the children go to their groups earlier than we used to. Once a month, on a Sunday morning, we will have an extended time of worship; and once a month we have a separate “worship evening” where we can linger in God’s presence without time constraints.
This is a shift for us, and will be a gain for some, and a loss for others. We have said that we can’t just go back to what we used to do – we have to adapt to thrive. However, this is more evolution rather than revolution – another season of experimentation and see what works and doesn’t work. Nothing is set in stone! As always, feedback and ideas are welcome – what is working is always encouraging, alongside what could be changed.
Getting down to details, we are going to continue with a 10.45am start time (recognising there were a variety of preferences about timings, but late morning had the greatest support and is more practical for things like the band and tech teams) and aim to finish at 12.15pm. And rather than do the same things each week, we are developing a rhythm over the course of a month, with slightly different things we will do each week.
We also sense that this is a time to prioritise regathering and re-connecting with space for “hospitality” on a regular basis. Therefore on the 1st Sunday of the month, we hope to serve tea/coffee & some pastries or bacon rolls from 10am – 10.30am, prior to our worship etc. And on the 3rd Sunday of the month, we hope to have a lunch together afterwards, perhaps in different configurations. Being frank, we would love to do this, but won’t be able to, unless we have some more people to help with this – please email Dani if you are willing to help once a month.
I hope this gives you a flavour of what lies ahead for our Sunday gatherings, starting in September. I am loving seeing people again, the sense of life in the King’s Hall, still have people join us online, and with a sense of hope that God is journeying with us as we move forward. It is the transformation that comes as we encounter Jesus, learn to follow up, shaped by others in community, that excites me, and I am praying for that this Autumn.
In the meantime, do put in your diary 10am on 5th September for some tea/coffee and pastries!