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Deeds, not drum kits

02 April 2012

Jennie Hogan looks at spreading the faith


Every Person Ministry: Reaching out in Christ
Teresa Morgan

SPCK £9.99
Church Times Bookshop £9

Everyday Church: Mission by being good neighbours
Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

IVP £9.99
Church Times Bookshop £9

TRANSFORMING the church is the objective of each of these books. Every Person Ministry — not the catchiest title — is the concise, mild-mannered fruit of a parish course. Laity-empowerment is explored through basic themes such as listening, friendship, and prayer.

It is soon apparent that the book is an extended report of the course, and it quickly becomes repetitive and dull. Regular anecdotes and obvious quotations are respectively indulgent and unimaginative. Certain reflections are astute; the chapter on forgiveness is the high­light. It may well serve as a resource for other parish groups. The author, a parish priest, clearly learned much from the course: she admits that she realised that she “hadn’t needed to get ordained at all”.

For the authors of Everyday Church, such an epiphany would be food for their ceaseless striving. Urgency rebounds on every page with a force normally reserved for the avant-garde. It is unsurprising, because this is cutting-edge, post-post-modern mission. The facts and stark figures about church attend­ance are presented in the first chapter: we can presume nothing any more; we must think differently about mission. Peter’s First Epistle forms the bedrock of their argu­ment, chosen, they say, for its intoxicating vision of church.

There is no doubt: the authors have reflected upon and, indeed, practised new ways of mission. Happily, however, the first instruc­tion comes only at page 50. “Be winsome, be yourself,” they suggest. Quaint, perhaps; but their message is extravagantly simple: ditch the PowerPoint and the drum kits, teach people about Christ, and embody Christ in everyday life in collabora­tion, in communities.

There is no mention of either liturgy or sacraments, and yet the theme throughout is nothing if not incarnational. Evangelical certainty penetrates every page. Building, sharing, including: three elements for mission. Everyone has some­thing to learn here.

The Revd Jennie Hogan is Chaplain at Goodenough College, London.

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