keeping it local

It’s no real surprise that ministers of religion are hardly top of the tree when surveys rating trustworthiness are published. Down with the bank managers? Yes, that’s about it in a study produced in Australia recently. But I do find this analysis instructive. Just as the rate of decline of local bank branches can be mapped onto the loss of trust in bank managers, so we may be taking a wrong turn when closing our local church outlets in favour of city centre regional headquarters (or mega-churches as some would have it).  I once heard this trend called ‘developing cathedrals of non-conformity’. Whatever your position on the established church, large churches (of all types) conform to the theory that bigger is best- delivering sustainability and growth. And it’s what people want. It may be that our consumerist instincts are most effectively fed by a more professional staff, higher quality venue and more satisfying music experience. But if the downside is loss of trust as smaller congregations fold then we may be losing contact with our local communities. We then lose the ability to hear their voices, to feel their anguish and to stand alongside them in their struggle to make sense of life. Our connectedness diminished, we become megaphones of gospel transmission rather than servants of the kingdom. And, in a new political era of localism and ‘the big society’, that could be a near fatal mistake.


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