What might the new face of the church look like?

There has been a great deal of conversation about the changing character of “Church’.  Recent conferences in Australia and overseas have tapped into this topic. Not everyone agrees that change is inevitable and will not be determined by churches as organisations or as congregations, but by the natural evolution of social values. Just when we were getting used to the idea of being more community relevant, a confronting challenge has been made by Jamie Manson, columnist and book reviewer to the recent National Catholic Reporter Conference in USA….“the new face of the church won’t have much of a face at all,”

Go to: National Catholic Reporter Conference to read a commentary on her paper.


2 thoughts on “What might the new face of the church look like?

  1. Rodney Eivers

    Thanks Paul
    The commentary would match well my own observations.
    The question arises, “Is there any point in doing anything about it?’
    My own perspective is that while I accept the religious environment as propounded by Jamie Manson (does she also refer to the impact of communication by electronic media?) I am not convinced that there is not a niche “ market” and perhaps in the long-run a growing market for personal face to face interaction at a neighbourhood level.
    Hence, Milpara. Although I am looking at this initially through the lens and structure of the Uniting Church that is not the really long-term vision. It is very likely, as Keith Suter has surmised that the Uniting Church will have disappeared within 20 to 30 years.
    So the Milpara vision sees the church congregation (or whatever other name it might be given) as providing the spiritual and social centre of small neighbourhood communities. Ultimately it would include Muslims and people of other “faiths”.
    This morning I attended a garage sale promoted by the Milpara Congregation and it was interesting to see how people, some known to the congregation and some not, dropped into browse around, renew acquaintances and have a chat.
    If we can see the activities of the congregation developing such ideas of interaction rather than, preaching or making money then we have better chance of demonstrating, how the world can be made a better place through the Jesus Way.

  2. paulinglis Post author

    There is much we can do about the trend. As the awareness grows it will become easier to apply new thinking to the nature of ‘church’

    I think the difference now is that the church, ever late to the party, is looking at specific ways to catch up with secular society. It is not declaring a post God/Love society so much as becoming aware of the way in which society/individuals and groups find their meaning for existence in new forms of social coherence. The spiritual dimension may even be stronger today than ever. Ninety people at Dayboro UC this morning and the service was more like a family get together rather than traditional worship. The baptism of an indigenous man from our congregation and his daughter had lots of imported indigenous characteristics and informality. Everyone was happy with it all. Especially the 3 minute ‘sermon’ which could barely be identified as a sermon. Yet to us ‘old guards’ there was nothing that caused us any pain. The whole episode will give us a lot to talk about now as we try to understand what ‘works’ with people who have no connection to our old church practices and dogmas. How we make the transition and mix the old and the new will be a huge challenge and get us off our behinds and make us use our brains!


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