The story of the Evening Service at Cartsbridge has been one of gradual decline in recent years. Added to that, the age profile of the congregation was definitely towards the more senior end lately. The question of its future was one that increasingly exercised the leadership of the church.
However, before we get to that discussion it would be important to say that this is only a tiny account of the bigger narrative of life at Cartsbridge. The church overall is not in decline. Indeed, far from it. Membership has increased and there are many fruitful and thriving ministries that take place on a weekly basis involving large numbers of people.
So what was happening on a Sunday night? Simply put the decline was the result of significant but, in many ways, hidden changes in church culture.
For many years Cartsbridge adopted a congregational-centred approach to church life. Members and attendees largely supported what was considered to be the key services of church life (i.e. Sunday worship and mid-week prayer).
What I have observed over recent years has been a kind of ‘grass roots’ adaptation to this approach.
Members began to make the choice of which of the three Sunday services they attended. Many became part of organic groups which have taken seed, germinated and grown in the last few years.
Church life, in other words, has become much more decentralised. People began to find support and nurture in smaller fellowship groups as well as whole church worship.
In all this diversity the major casuality seems to have been the Sunday Evening Service. In the spring of 2015 the Elders made the decision to bring this service to an end. The natural break over the summer would allow some space to reflect on what, if anything, should take its place.
What happened over that period was, in my mind, very important. The elders entrusted the potential for a new future to a small team of people who were gifted, passionate and able to see fresh possibilities.
When the core team began to imagine a way forward the big picture quickly took shape.
Launch a once-a-month-event
Form a team who would be entrusted with specific areas of responsibility
Endeavour to make it a central space for community, worship, teaching and creativity.
Work hard at envisioning the church.
The core team debated about what we should call the event. We believed it ought to have its own distinct ‘branding.’ In the end we chose ‘church:’ The fact that the letter ‘u’ and the colon were the same colour would capture the heart of what this event was all about. The colon would say (subtly!) that these evenings would expand on some of the central tenets of church life: community, worship, teaching and creativity. The letter ‘u’ would in effect say that people would be blessed and enriched for being there.
On October 1 2015 we launched ‘church:’ So how did it go? The answer deserves a blog piece all of its own!