As a Church we are being asked to think about what Church will be like in 2030. Initially I thought – well that’s ages away, I can play sci-fi church, but of course its not that far off – a mere 10.5 years. Prediction comes with its own dangers and inevitable pitfalls. We were told confidently by some as soon ago as 2010 that the Church of England in 2020 “would be no longer functionally extant at all”. Well that is clearly not the case, even though there is no room for complacency.
We can’t answer the question of how the church will look until we answer the question of how the world will look. This is not to say that the church is formed by the world’s trends and values – far from it, but the church exists within culture and responds afresh in each generation to the challenge of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. So if we look at the world, what are the big questions people are asking, what are the anxieties people are carrying and what are the hopes people are looking to bring to fruition?
One answer has to be our environmental impact and what will be happening in the natural world around us. Another for us in the UK is the ageing population demographic and the implications that has for health, and social care. We could also think about the more populist trend of politics, the fast changing ways in which we communicate and socialise with each other electronically, the pressure on housing, education and local infrastructure. Religion and faith do not sit in splendid isolation from these issues but run to the very heart of them.
Our response to climate change is based on our faith in a creative and life giving God who has given us a precious stewardship of his world. Our response to an increasingly elderly demographic is to treasure the wisdom and experience of our elders and not to see people as a burden, as our Lord made it clear in his ministry that he valued each and every one of us lovingly and carefully. And so it goes on.
There will be changes to how we do church in 2030, but actually there have always been changes to the way we do church, it’s just a matter of scale. The church is not the same as it was 50 or 100 years ago. There are many that would look to the future and say things will only be worse. Some things might well be – life is not just a linear forward progression after all, but dare we hope that some things might actually be better? A greater unity as we realise that none of come from a position of strength, a greater openness and honesty on our conversations about human identity, and church buildings altered to be inclusive and welcoming?
Oh, and a realisation that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and for ever. “Too blessed to be stressed” runs the (trite) slogan- but actually within it a truth: With God nothing is impossible. May we face whatever the future brings with a deep and abiding faith in God’s unchanging love.