There has been a recent explosion in ‘church planting‘ that has been pretty obvious in Sydney. Now, I know on one level, ‘church planting’ has been pushed for the last 10 years, but I think we all know the recent hype and I for one am excited by that.
However, ‘cursed’ is the man who turns his back on the old school idea of a parish for greener pastures. Sure the Anglican parish has its roots in old English traditions and that may seem dated, but it is built on great principles and gives us more than we realise here in Sydney.
3 reasons to value the parish system
1. Its responsibility to the community. Whether you know it or not, the idea of a ‘parish’ is that the church is held responsible for the area in which it is located. That means, it is responsible for the gospel proclamation, the care for the poor and the general love of everyone in that area (usually a suburb or two). In recent times there has been this rediscovery that we should really be ‘engaging’ with our communities. We’ve had people from England and people from America come and bring us this revelation. Truth is, we’re already 10 steps ahead because we have churches all around this city with the responsibility for the local community around them. The parish system demands a church engages with its community.
2. Resources. Each parish has a building and in most cases a place for the minister to live. This is such a blessing! Sure, some of our buildings were constructed in the 1970’s and look somewhat offensive to modern eyes – but we’re well beyond the seeker sensitive model of church that needs neon lights and flashy paint to communicate the gospel. If Mars Hill had the number of buildings we own they would be over the moon! Our parish system has been established and resourced and we should take advantage of that.
3. Completely inclusive. That is, because a church is responsible for an area anyone in that area is welcome. It’s not an independent church set up for Chinese, nor for the ‘late 20’s’, nor for Anglo’s. A parish church has open doors to anyone in that area regardless of age, sex or nationality. Our parish system is beautifully inclusive.
A way forward:
We need to embrace people wanting to plant churches. BUT we must also reclaim the true power of the parish and start taking more responsibility for the area’s we have been given. Much of the recent hype could be achieved through local churches going back to basics. Ofcourse, at its very heart the connect09 campaign is simply a way to remind churches that they have a parish to look after.
Just because your hip, doesn’t mean you can dish the parish.
Oh, and of course that raises another question – why are you young hipsters who are so concerned with ‘community’ not turing up to your local church?