The adaptable PCANZ: paradox or promise? – Tom Mepham

Tom Mepham is a first-year ministry intern with KCML and a co-leader of Student Soul, a young adult congregation in Dunedin.

The PCANZ is a good tribe to be a part of. The thought life is strong and capable. Rich history. Great people. And so on.

However, the question on my mind is: will the PCANZ sink, or soar?

And at what point do we deploy the lifeboats: have we missed that opportunity yet?

I sometimes wonder if a major and genuine crises would be a good outcome for us. Something urgent to wake us up, rather than the slow creep of dusk settling in.

I believe in a church that is powered by the Spirit of the living God, free like the wind; adaptable, wild, bubbling with energy, vibrant with hope. That’s not the PCANZ I see now, but I don’t mind speaking on our behalf to say “we want this.”

Here are five non-recommendations to stir urgency:

1. If you want young people, don’t invite them into your game. Hand over the keys and offer to join theirs.
2. If you want new life and don’t know where to look, ask: What are we most unwilling and unable to give up? Resurrection comes after crucifixion.
3. Sunday worship services in practice are the power center of your congregation. Who are you called to give power away to?
4. I won’t even start on our buildings.
5. In practice we don’t embrace the concept of a priesthood of believers, just look at how tightly controlled the sacraments are. At least the Word is free…​​

There you go, just some light-hearted musings! I’m not sure what the future holds, but I am pretty confident that it’s important for us to lose some baggage and travel a bit lighter on our feet. Can we? Time will tell…

 

9 thoughts on “The adaptable PCANZ: paradox or promise? – Tom Mepham

  1. Thanks for the challenge and stimulation Tom. There is so much here worthy of deep discussion. I confess it is hard to put to death my clergy-centredness that, I fear, simply feeds a kind of co-dependence. I don’t think a culture of believers in priesthood can flourish when ministers like me cling to their status as experts whilst simultaneously surprising oneself at the toll this takes. Our structures sometimes don’t do much to discourage this. Ultimately, this all has a fatal effect on those we are called to serve, who along with us are already courting consumerism and the idolatry of youthfulness (as Andrew Root has put it). So, in addition, all of our communities will struggle if we behave as if ‘the priesthood of all believers’ is more about our equality bofore God than our co-ministry in God’s household.

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    • Hey Andrew
      Thanks for the comment and feedback. Yes, deep discussion is a good outcome for this 🙂
      It’s a hard one, but my feeling is that this has a lot to do with congregations and not simply with ministers. Ministers can only do so much – most folks inherit an eldership, a congregation, and years of embedded culture. Change is way harder in that situation than I think we realise. Nice point however on the toll of trying to be expert.
      Go well
      TM

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  2. Thanks Tom. In line with the previous comment, I wonder if we would still be Presbyterian if the Sunday worship was no longer the ‘power centre’ of our congregation. If not, would that be a bad thing? Sure, you can’t be a congregation without congregating… but how? The phrase ‘Sunday worship’ presupposes a helluva lot of cultural and theological baggage?

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    • Hey Bruce, thanks for the reply.
      With regard to the power center comment, I mean that the Sunday service is really where church culture is shaped more than any other aspect of congregational life. So any desire for ‘change’ that doesn’t recognise that will potentially be hamstrung – depending on the health of the congregation.

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      • Hi Tom, I agree about what the status quo situation is with respect to the shaping of congregational life. I am interested in putting that under the theological microscope. My question has nothing to do with the day of the week. More to do with the purpose and mode of congregating. Just as theologians usually take for granted what ‘church’ is and quibble about the details, so theologians tend to take for granted what ‘worship’ is and quibble about details. For example, post Christendom we take for granted that congregational worship is a public event. Should we do this when it really wasn’t pre-Christendom?

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      • Hey Bruce. I think it’s entirely viable that a Presbyterian way of being church can (and will need to) deemphasise sunday worship without compromising core DNA.

        Your public event comment is interesting. i think that if designed well, worship events have potential to function evangelistically in which case being public-facing makes sense. However, there’s got to be additional and more empowering ways to build the evangelistic function in.

        What are your thoughts?

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  3. Hi Tom. Im not sure if you are questioning whether the sunday service should be the powerhouse or simply changing how it operates as the powerhouse. My contention is that the church community in general is addicted to sunday as the main expression of our faith. We need to stop being sunday centric to be able to more authentically express Gods kingdom in the world. But sunday has its place though I feel we have to explore far wider how to worship corporately than just singing a few songs.

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    • Kia ora Mark, thanks for the reply. I pretty much agree with your sentiments. However, my comment about Sunday as the power center is less about whether it _should_ or _shouldn’t_ be the center, but that in practice it IS. And by power I’m referring to its place within social structures etc. rather than making a theological point about, for example, it being the center of our life as we are transformed by the Spirit in worship

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