A fresh expression of church is NOT a cheap and cheerful option (Caroline Holt)

Monday, 1 March, 2010

Caroline HoltCaroline Holt explains why a fresh expression is not a cheap and cheerful option.

Those of us in the church need to wake up to the fact that many people don't feel comfortable with any of our traditional ways of doing things. They also don't have a clue what we stand for.

The Wesley Playhouse may look nothing like a traditional church - with its children's soft play area, climbing frames, ball pool and café in the middle of it - but those who come along to our Playhouse Praise once a month see this place as their church, and so it is.

A fresh expression of church should be one that understands a generation and culture that's very different to what we may know and recognise. The young families I come across don't know what to sing and they don't understand our words. Why should they?

On Mother's Day we're laying on a four-course meal for mums and their families. It's a chance for people to relax while we wait on them. It should always be about service.

We have already had several christenings here, but we have just taken bookings for two more.The families had initially asked at other local churches but had been told that it couldn't happen because the godparents hadn't been baptised. They were being pushed to get to a place where they didn't want to go.

I'm not saying that we're the cheap and cheerful option; I'm saying that we welcome people even if they don't call the ceremony a christening because they don't know the 'right' word. It is completely alien to them. Ours is a consecrated church building so we're happy to arrange christenings, explain what it's all about in their terminology, and develop relationship with them.

Many people don't feel comfortable with any of our traditional ways of doing things. They also don't have a clue what we stand for.

Why in traditional church do we ask people to make promises that we know are not going to be kept? Yes, I'm aware that people will have been through some sort of baptism course and are meant to appreciate the seriousness of what they're saying, but we have to get real – that is not what happens in many cases at all.

The church will feel that it has done what it is meant to do by making them go through the hoops; in turn the people will promise to turn to Christ and renounce evil, etc. The uncomfortable fact is that these lies are told in front of God in church and that's an accepted part of Christendom, but, more often than not, the words mean absolutely nothing. That's not because the people don't want the very best for their child, and they certainly wouldn't want to lie to God, but they can't really relate those words to everyday life.

In the past I've asked children in schools, 'What happens in church?' Their answer was, 'You go there to die', because they associated church with funerals. Now a lot of people go straight to the crematorium without having a church service, so the church is not even where you 'go to die' any more.

We've got to change our ways, care for the people, fund risky initiatives like ours, and give thanks for the chance to do it.

About the author: 

Caroline Holt is The Wesley Playhouse Outreach Manager, Howden Clough Methodist Church.

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