Martin Keenan asks when a Circuit is a Mission Circuit.
A recent article on Share suggested that pioneers need to move on to allow the new church to stand on its own feet. I agree with this as long as the reasons for moving are God's reasons and not denominational reasons. Having moved on from my previous church almost a year ago, I have been thinking about what that means from a pioneer's viewpoint.
When I was first looking for the next step, I saw several Circuit profiles which stated that the Circuit in question had the beginnings of a fresh expression of church. These looked appealing, but on closer inspection it seemed as though the work was already being done and the potential new minister, while encouraging the fresh expression, was expected to look after the rest of the work on the Circuit.
So I looked for other Circuits.
The result is that I am now in the North of Scotland Mission Circuit looking after six churches. This one appealed because the Circuit name suggests mission. Ten months into it and, to be honest, I'm not sure whether we are breaking advertising standards!
To the west, our only neighbour is the Inverness Circuit which does have a fresh expression. Our Circuit goes as far east as it's possible to go, to Peterhead, where my wife and I have given the church a session on running Messy Church. In the early days of July, the first Messy Church in Peterhead Methodist will begin.
The 'capital city' of the Circuit is Aberdeen and I have offered to run the mission shaped intro course there, but my six churches are on the Moray Coast and things are different here in what are the most northerly mainland Methodist churches.
Evangelism happens through Alpha. I am running it in two churches and since last September there have been seven converts. An idea still prevails that young people are not interested any more, but we'll leave the light on in case they decide to come in. There is also a general concern about how to 'get people in'.
I have been running a Bible study for the six churches for the past nine months looking at Acts and Paul's letters, tracing the growth of the church at the beginning and giving ideas of how we can change and develop into a Mission Circuit. It is not producing anything yet, but there is a growing sense of optimism.
I have to say that I find it frustrating. I still remember my first service in September, having to prepare by opening Hymns & Psalms and not remembering what to do. And then having to incorporate 'modern' songs from Mission Praise! I nearly gave up in despair before I started.
But I am used to pipe organs and pews now. I'm hoping for a 21st century revival – this is the area that has seen the most revival in Scotland - but I hope when it happens next time that it will be a fresh expression of revival. Here's hoping (and praying).