Why does the Church exist?

In June and July we are hosting three evenings at St Paul’s under the title “Church – Past Present & Future.” The intention of these evenings is to explore some of the background to the nature of the church in the 21st century and how we as the church need to continue to adapt and change.

The first of these evenings was last Monday when Ben Mizen led a great workshop on Generations and Church. Today I’m starting to point our thoughts towards our next evening on Growing The Vision.

Please put the following dates in your diary and come along:

June 22nd 7.30pm – Growing The Vision
July 6th 7.30pm – Christmas!

William Temple

Archbishop William Temple said: “The Church is the only institution that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members.” One question that is helpful to ask, and difficult to answer, is how do those outside the church view what we do and how/when we do it?

It’s a questions that the church has struggled with since the earliest times. The early church was accused of cannibalism due to the way they celebrated communion with the body and blood of Christ. The question of how others view what we do came home to me in a previous parish. In the normal order of Anglican communion the Peace is in the middle of the service. That Sunday we had a couple who were visiting as they were due to be married in the church in a few months time. When it came to the Peace they started to walk out of the door! Why? They assumed the service was over – quite a natural conclusion as everyone had got up, people were milling around and chatting to each other.

As we think about the life of our church we need sometimes to look at ourselves through the eyes of the outsider. Are there things we should stop doing altogether? Are there things we should continue to do, but in a different way? Are there new things we should start doing?

Perhaps our answers are different depending on our perspective as to the purpose of the church. Does the church exist primarily for the benefit of those who are not yet it’s members? Or perhaps, if we are really honest, do we think it exists primarily for those of us who are already part of the church?

Based on this let me ask a few questions:

  • On what day and at what time should the church community gather for worship?
  • Should communion be the main focus of our worship gatherings?
  • Does The Peace make any sense to those who are outside the church?
  • If someone is part of a small group but doesn’t come to our Sunday gatherings does that make them any less part of our church?
  • If our whole education system has moved away from lecture style teaching to participative learning what future is there for the sermon?
  • How often does someone need to come to our worship gatherings to be part of our church – weekly, twice a month, once a month, whenever they can?
  • Are we prepared to give financially to support parts of our church life that we may never see and never benefit from?


Things I’ve read this week: