This week’s guest post is from Leo Roberts who is 49. Which is nearly 50 but not quite. One of a team of Children and Youth Development Officers in the United Reformed Church, he has been married for 26 years and has 3 grown up kids who studiously avoid him in case he embarrasses them. Unless they need money.
A folk musician of absolutely no repute he has also been a Kop season ticket holder at Anfield for 30 years.
He lives in Eccles – where the cakes come from. Which explains a lot.
If you really have nothing better to do you can follow Leo’s twitter feed
It’s been very difficult being a member of my church for the last couple of years. Things just don’t seem to have gone as well as we had expected them to. We got a new minister 5 years ago and, whilst we didn’t understand everything he did (he came to our church from a different theological tradition), some really exciting things were happening, he encouraged some of the local church members to take on more responsibility whilst also bringing in to membership people who had skills that we locals just didn’t have. It all seemed to be working really well. In his first year as Pastor we were won recognition as being ‘the best church in Europe’ and made it to the shortlist the every year but one after that, including just missing out on the top prize once.
We really thought that we were going places, places where we felt we had a right to be (my church has a proud and long tradition which many other churches could only dream of – and quite a few of the other churches were jealous of what we had done in the past)
3 years ago our Church Council recognised that our current buildings were not really suitable for what we wanted to do. Not that there was anything wrong with them particularly, just that lots of other churches had new premises, or bigger premises, or newer and bigger premises and this was thought to put us at a disadvantage. However, the chairperson of our Church Council, whose family had been involved with running the church for years, didn’t feel that he had the energy to see the church through into this new and exciting period so relinquished control to some people who promised us that they had the vision and experience (and money) to move us forward.
How excited were we? You have no idea! The optimism that seemed to run through the congregation as we listened to the promises our brand new church council made – our new buildings would be started in 60 days and be ready in less than 3 years… the future was bright and we, as a congregation, sang our hymns with gusto and passion, attended faithfully each service and put our money in the collection plate each time.
But nothing happened. There was no new building, not even a spade in the ground. The ‘great revival’ never happened, never even started. Indeed, we found out that the new church council, rather than bringing money into our church, had actually been borrowing money AGAINST our buildings! We, who sat in the pews week after week, became increasingly disillusioned and disappointed. And, over time, our disappointment turned to anger – even to hatred. We became increasingly frustrated at our minister – the worship just wasn’t exciting and lively enough. He might have come from a different theological tradition, might have got our church recognised in other areas, might have brought some fantastic people into membership, but it just wasn’t ‘happening’. Indeed, some of the people he’d brought in to membership left the church and some of those who remained didn’t seem to have a great deal of enthusiasm for the task in hand.
And then, at the end of the last liturgical year, our minister left and went to another big church. The church council spent some time looking for a new minister and there were plenty of rumours about getting someone famous (maybe Steve Chalke or Chick Yuill) but, in the end we got a minister who is quite well known – mostly because he’s been a minister for years – but isn’t particularly inspiring. Someone who would, the church council hoped, steady the boat.
His first couple of months didn’t go well at all. Worship was, if possible, even more dreary than before and the deacons and Lay Preachers just didn’t seem to care about making worship invigorating. What hurt most, though, was that they didn’t seem to care about US. Some of our members even set up a new church that promised to worship the way we wanted to see our church worshipping, the way it had done in the past. I’ve been to the new church a few times, there’s only a small congregation, but it’s friendly – and they don’t expect you to put so much in the collection plate!
We protested against the chairman of our church council. He didn’t respond, didn’t seem to care (his son (who had been put on the council without even being voted on by us) actually sent one of the church members an abusive email using most un-Christian terms. Our protests got louder and louder. Did they not realise that this was OUR church, not theirs? I mean, obviously we were happy to take their money – when we thought it WAS their money, but we’d found out that it wasn’t their money at all! They had to go. If our church was to have any respect in the Christian community they had to go. Simple as that. Even the banks wanted them gone – the same banks that had loaned them the money in the first place.
They didn’t want to go, though. They talked about the ‘massive investment’ they had made, how they felt that everyone was conspiring against them, that they were going to turn things around they just needed a bit more time. But we didn’t want to give them more time. We wanted them out. And we got our way. A new Chairperson has been found. He’s actually from the same place as the old chairperson but is making the right noises (in that he isn’t making too many noises at all – no promises)
The trouble is that we still have the new minister. Is he going to be able to change things sufficiently in our church that other churches will start to respect us again? And what if he can’t? What do we do then?
Nothing would make me happier than seeing my church revitalised, rejuvenated and re-invigorated. I honestly believe that I have done everything I can to support the worship planners, I have done for years. But, most of all, I hope that I can regain the feeling that this church is MY church. THAT is what would make me happiest, and proudest, of all.
My name is Leo Roberts, and I worship at Liverpool FC.