Getting ready for Didsbury Festival

The 30th annual Didsbury Festival is to take place this Saturday (6 June) and I have been busy preparing some church publicity for use on our stands. Didsbury Baptist Church will be running a Bouncy Castle (proceeds will benefit our building project) and a plant stall to benefit Christian Aid. The churches of Didsbury will run a Fair Trade Cafe and members and friends of our church will be helping to sell refurbished tools at the Tools for Self Reliance stand. Two of the event organisers are members of Didsbury Baptist Church so we all take an interest in the event. It is usually extremely well supported and is one of the highlights of the Didsbury year.

Publicising one’s church at the festival (or any other event) presents its own problems. Many of the churches of Didsbury will be involved in the festival and I don’t want our publicity to be seen as competitive. I think in future years the churches ought to share in some united publicity. Still, it is no bad thing that people using the bouncy castle know who organised it; and the people we would like to attract to the church are not those already worshiping elsewhere but those who are not part of a church at all. Those of us who have come to believe in God and are learning to follow Jesus together in community are discovering a life worth promoting. We want  others to make the same discovery. I hope the postcards and posters I am putting together convey this sense, without being too cheesy.

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Sunday 17 May

Our communion service on Sunday morning was a particularly happy one because we received a new member into our fellowship. During my sermon I talked about the nature of the church and church membership. I referred to Vernard Eller’s The Outward Bound: caravaning as the style of the church, a book that had greatly influenced me in the ’80s while I was living in the United States.

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I made use of Eller’s imagery and the contrast he draws between two models of the church: as commissary or caravan. The language, of course, is American but the content seems to me every bit as pertinent for a British audience. The caravan Eller has in mind is that of a journeying group of people rather than the mobile home variety. It seems to me, 25 years after first reading Eller, that our consumer society presses us all the more toward the model of church as commissary. In this model the church dispenses salvation to a passive consumer clientèle. In the caravaning model all the members join together, help each other and journey together from where they are to where they would like to be. Of course, I argued for the caravaning model. I hope it served to make further sense of the covenant we make, when receiving new members, to walk together before God in ways that are known and yet to be made known.

Did Eller’s book have any influence on these shores?

I also made reference during my sermon to the new title from Brian Haymes, Ruth Gouldbourne and Anthony R Cross, On Being the Church. I am still reading it but, so far, it is a treat!

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