Nothing excites me more ecclesiastically these days than visiting churches where loads of young people and/or families with young children are present. I had such an experience visiting a local parish on Sunday morning.
The day before I returned from being part of the Wellington Diocesan Ministry Conference at El Rancho, Waikanae. Although I had been invited to give some Bible studies and workshops, the Conference was the opposite of draining or tiring for me. It was a real spiritual tonic. Great worship, excellent contributors (i.e. other than me), super cool MCing by my colleague Spanky Moore.
But best and most invigorating was simply being with the ministers (ordained and lay) of the Wellington Diocese and their families. It was a chance to catch up with some old friends as well as to mix and mingle with a large group of folk new to me. About 160 in total. Very energetic. Pure gold.
I didn't do a count but it seemed like over half were aged under 40. Very cool. Let's face it, when most of one's working life has been spent in the working for the good health and growth of our Anglican church, it is quite satisfying to think that this church might still be around in fifty years' time! Incidentally, simultaneously, a national church Theological Hui teeming with young people was being held in Cambridge, Waikato.
But what sort of church will ACANZP be in fifty years' time?
Well, going on my visit to the Diocese of Wellington, it will not be the church it is today. I say that because my experience at the weekend was an experience of a diocese as it changes from what it once was to what it is becoming. (Trust me on this. It's partly hard to put my intuition into words. To the extent that I could put it into words, I haven't time to set them down).
The fascinating thing about Anglicanism in these islands (and elsewhere across the Communion) is that even as we attempt to change or resist change on matters such as Motion 30, we are changing in various ways as we attempt to adapt what we do as 'church' in order to connect with community around us.
We are in a race for survival. Some stats suggest a graphline which will zero out sometime in 20??. But in the race for survival we are recognising that the fittest survive and the fittest are those who adapt themselves to changing environments.
My experience at the weekend (both the conference and the local church service) highlights some ways in which we are winning the race.
Thanks be to God.