Path of Renewal

Published in Church News

In  the latter part of last year the Kirk Session agreed to apply to be accepted on to the Church of Scotland’s ‘Path of Renewal’ initiative. This is designed, not to be a specific programme to follow, not to give us more to do, but to give us space to really think about the future of the church and in particular what God would have us be and do in our own parish. 

 

The first part of the process was to indicate our interest, after which the Session Clerks and the minister were visited by the National Co-ordinator, Revd. Liz Crumlish along with Revd. Bill Hunter of Howe of Fife Parish Church in the Presbytery of St. Andrews, whose charge was already part of the pilot scheme exploring the path.   In September a few of our session attended a regional conference in Lethem St Mark’s, in Perth.  In October, Revd. Bill Hunter came along to a Session meeting to outline for the rest of Session what the ‘Path of Renewal’ was all about.  Our application was supported by Presbytery, and in December we were chosen to travel on the National Church’s ‘Path of Renewal’.  

The final assessment criteria for acceptance are set out below:

 

  • Ministers who recognise the necessity for change, have the gifts to lead through change and a willingness to share leadership with a small team drawn from the congregation.
  • Ministers who are open to engaging in a learning process and reflecting on the changing nature of church life and culture in 21st Century Scotland.
  • Kirk Sessions which are supportive of change and are willing to be involved in championing change within the wider congregation.
  • Congregations which have individuals with the skills and commitment to engage in developing the work and witness of the church in new ways.

 

It is very important to stress that this is not about changing everything.  There is an expectation that each congregation will create a small team to take any new developments forward and in many cases this will involve a continuation of things that are already taking place within the life of the congregation.   Members of the team would be made up of interested parties from both Session and the wider congregation, and would be asked to commit to meeting regularly and to read, pray and prepare between meetings.  

 

This isn’t a quick fix, but a time of discernment and experiment. 

 

In the first year the minister is required to attend conferences where there will be teaching on missional theology and leadership; principles for managing change - moving from maintenance to mission; and, training and mentoring missional leaders. In the second year the teaching will be on community development - using a partnership approach; spiritual formation, creating a discipleship process; and, creating effective local structures. Each three-month block will include two or three day teaching events for ministers who will return and share what they have learned locally. So January saw the minister attend a 2 day introductory conference, with February-April as a time of study and meeting with other ministers, followed by a second 2 day conference in May.

 

We live in a semi- rural centre, and as we look at the vacancies and falling numbers in the churches around us, and the older demographic of those who attend our own church on a regular basis, we know that we cannot afford to do nothing.  We do not necessarily see this as a time to overload our people with additional things to do, but rather our hope is that as we engage in the ‘Path of Renewal’ process we will learn new things and have the opportunity to reconsider those things we currently do, and that we can be guided, as we seek to see more clearly the church we are meant to be at this time and in this place.  

 

‘Path of Renewal’ is an initiative for churches to think, and work through, how they can be more relevant in society today. It begins by recognizing the missional challenge of a changing culture - understanding that the culture outside the church has changed and is very much more secular than Christian. The church now finds itself on the fringe of society rather than at the centre, and that raises questions about what church should look like when it’s no longer at the heart of the community, or a place people would instinctively turn to for support. We know that sitting back and expecting people to come is no longer a realistic option.

 

Prayer is vital to our designated pathway and so please pray for our church in the weeks and months ahead, especially for those who will look more closely at the path, remembering always the words of Paul who wrote in his letter to the church at Philippi “do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God and the peace of God which transcends all our understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”.

In the coming months there will be study, prayer, discernment and experimentation.   What shape this will take has yet to be decided, but you, our congregation and our prayer support, will be told as it unfolds.  Sometimes there may not be a lot to share, but the need for prayer will be constant.

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