Thanks to Pressley, we learned about other MCCs around the world where he has had first-hand experience – in New York, which has wonderful outreach mission to the homeless and LGBT youth; in Cape Town, where church volunteers work with residents in a local township, and whose Christmas party now attracts 300 children; in Cologne, where a small MCC congregation runs a café that has become an essential community venue; and in North London, where the Biblical quotation ‘No Fear in Love’ has become their kerygma or rallying call. We experienced the sensory delights of sweets and cakes, themed according to the countries we were learning about – genius – including some home-made South African doughnuts that expanded my waistline just looking at them…
We also spent time identifying those areas of growth and spiritual vitality (‘noticing spirit and momentum’), those where there is a steady-state, and those where additional support is needed (or perhaps those areas where the spirit has moved on, guiding us somewhere else). In teams we came up with five ideas from the least to the most audacious, from the easily achievable (better advertising outside of the church, for example) to the vision of one day having our own worship space.
In the afternoon the Board, staff and ministry leaders took stock of the ideas we had discussed in the morning with the aim of formulating some action points. We grouped ideas among four areas in particular: having our own space, producing well-written and exciting resources to inform and educate people about MCC Newcastle; reaching out to queer and marginalised groups who are on the edge of mainstream Christianity; offering dynamic and transformational worship. These areas had been highlighted in the morning as of particular interest and concern to the congregation, are key components of our five year plan, and will inform our planning process in the months ahead.
In all of this, one thing I have learned is that prayerful consideration, consultation and respect for one another is absolutely crucial. Growth involves loss – certain things will pass away, and we need to respect the sensibilities of those for whom change can be difficult, as well as having a keen sense that the time to tackle injustice, and do more is now! How many people out there need to hear about Jesus? How many of them need the safe haven and acceptance that we at MCC can provide? We need to broaden our vision, to make sure our worship is inclusive, our spaces accessible, and welcoming of children. We need to be attentive to gender imbalance, and to our need to become more aware through training where needed of issues that affect our congregation. We need to listen and respond to ministries involving trans- people, asylum-seekers and the homeless – often marginalized people among those already on the margins.
In all of this, and as we continue to work on translating our vision into action, we need to be patient with one another, to speak openly and acknowledge that we are all doing our best. Sometimes we may disagree, but in a healthy family, it is possible to disagree without falling out. One of the best ways, as the apostle Paul recommended, is to try and leave our egos at the door and instead see ourselves as conduits for God’s work.
This will start with small steps that could have big consequences. Personally I would like to see us hold our big Easter service, (how about making it a musical bonanza, our best yet?) – held in the main church, then I would like to see us remain there for regular worship on a permanent basis. That is just my view, and I would like to know yours. Without space, and the provision of a decent piano and instruments for our talented musicians, we cannot grow in the quality of worship we provide, or in numbers. As St. Paul says in this week’s reading from 1 Corinthians 3, 1-9, ‘I planted the seed, [another] watered it, but God made it grow’. There are challenging but exciting times ahead - let us do the work, dance forward together, and see where the spirit guides us, in Jesus’ name. AMEN.
Helen Berry, Vice Moderator