Sunday Reflection: AS we move out of our buildings, who will we leave behind?

I have watched great organisations, and local congregations scrambling to produce on-line material over the last couple of weeks. Many will admit it’s stretched them, but from my observational position they have all risen well to deal with the situation as best as they can, given the constraints of technology, knowledge of its capabilities and use by both ministerial teams and congregations.


Many are trying to include those without technology. Also, bigger questions are being asked as to whether recreating what we had in the pre-covid world is replicable on line, and if there are different ways of doing community or faith on line? Great question. How do we deal with the children? How do we educate parents in the transference of faith? a question that those involved in Child and Family Ministry have been asking for over a decade but which has been unimportant to the wider church until now. Braden wrote a great open letter on this theme.


But there seems to me to be one other group that we are not addressing. And that is the “single” faith parent, and no I don’t mean, the socially single family, I mean the family who attend our congregations without the other spouse. Two parent households that do not share the same faith convictions.


These are the families who will not be gathered around the livestream service together. These are the families where the differing beliefs of the partners would have been evident in the formation of their relationship or where one parent has come to, or fallen away from faith during their partnership. Each family would have made their own decisions regarding the spiritual formation of the children, but they would be renegotiating this issue, along with all the other negotiations that have been happening in homes around the world.


This can lead to increased tensions in these families, OR they could lead to the advancement of faith discussions and decisions. How are you helping these families deal with either situation?


As we race to supply services, have we addressed how we deal with those who are searching for faith?

Do you have strong pastoral care, or communication lines that stay in touch with all your families?


And what about the child who is searching for faith? What are you offering them and how are you making that a safe on-line environment?


I have asked more questions but not solved any. Because the answers are also situational.


Assuming that all your efforts will be acceptable in a multifaith environment, is to fail those families that are in that situation. Find out what they will need, ask the questions rather than assuming that you have the answer, or solution. If there is one thing I have also noticed it’s that the consultation process has been lost as congregations try to move their physical activities on line. The wrong people are leading and those who are familiar with “living online” such as the ill, the travellers, those with disabilities are again being overlooked by those in the “physical congregation”. Let this new opportunity to be church be an inclusive one, or maybe one with multi access points. We are so use to the spiritual model of the labyrinth, one entry and exit point that maybe now is the time to explore faith formation as one of multiple entry and exit points. We have the technology.


With a background in the Wesleyan tradition, I’m encouraged by the story of being refused the capacity to preach in the Church of England, John took his preaching beyond the constraints of the buildings and took it into the fields. Christ saw the ill, those outside of society, the shamed and oppressed. As we enter this brand-new world, may we see the opportunities to not let anyone be left behind.


Wendy Lewis


Sunday Reflection: Preaching’s not for Children?

During the week, I had the good fortune to attended a local preaching conference.It was well run, had great speakers, motivated us and was an absolute delight to participate in. I should have been on the other side of the world, but as these things happen the fires that are heavily affecting two countries, America and Australia, put paid to business/social plans and so I was able to attend this instead. And I was excited, still am, but there was one thing, that niggles at me for the two days, this conference, for Ministers of the Word, assumed that their audience was over 18 years of age, understood English, and were educated to Tertiary level at a time when listening and contemplation were necessary skills for learning.

It did throw a nod to the mentally ill, first generation Australians, and a brief reference by one of the key note speakers to the fact that there is only one reference to mass gatherings and preaching while most other references of Jesus’s teaching in the Gospels was through stories and small group discussions.

Given that the convener was an ex-teacher and Chaplain at that, I was surprised by this oversight. I found the response that it was the responsibility of another department of the Church, unsatisfying. It perpetuates the idea that children are not part of ministry. Yet if we take the view that Preaching is more than the sermon, the whole construct of the service, children are still present for a third of the time in a traditional format, ie leaving through the service to attend Sunday School. These little jugs have ears, they see, hear, feel, even if the ecclesiastical arguments are beyond them. Failing to include the worshipping child in a conference on Preaching is an oversight, a mistake of history, but one that could so easily be addressed. Is it really, too hard to invite the presence of another department? Aren’t we in the business of integration!

And it is not just an issue with this conference, I spoke to some of our Minister’s that had attended an American Preaching conference earlier in the year, not one, recounted in their experience of the example of preaching with children.

Until the walls come down between child learning and faith formation, and adult worship the divide that exists between children and adults in the worshipping community will continue, while we still see that it is not important to give our best leaders to the children, we are not being true to Matthew 18: 1-5. We can do better, it takes a bit of thought and effort, but we are really close, if we just think a bit more broadly.


Wendy L.