Friday, February 12, 2010

Where have all the Methodists gone?

Not long after I arrived in Christchurch in 1971 I saw notice of a new Red Shield (i.e. Salvation Army based) scout troop being established. I had been a Red Shield Cub in Dunedin, so I decided to join this particular scout troop. To get to our weekly meetings I had to bike past St David's Methodist Church, a kilometre or two up the road from our home.

Within three weeks of arriving in Christchurch nearly 30 years later I have learned that the nearest Methodist church to where I work in Merivale, Rugby Street Methodist has been sold, and two days ago, perusing the property pages of the Press, I spied that two other Methodist churches are for sale: St David's, and the Clarence Street Methodist church in Riccarton. In idle conversation someone has suggested that all Methodist churches in Christchurch are for sale: I presume that is not accurate, that some will survive this selling frenzy.

I take it for granted that when all is well in a church there are not multiple sales of church buildings. When all is well, there might be individual sales of buildings because a church here is bursting at the seams, or a church there is non-viable. But I would be surprised to have a commenter appear here and tell me all is numerically well with Methodism in Christchurch, or, for that matter, the rest of New Zealand.

One could leap to all sorts of conclusions about what has contributed to decline in NZ Methodism which would not spring to mind as one of our more conservative denominations. I think it not unreasonable to suppose that somehow they have lost their way on the matter of decisive missional engagement with society.

We Anglicans down under may or may not be finding our way on that matter. If we do not find it, I believe we will have multiple sales of our churches. I am hopeful that we will find it.


Anonymous said...

Note to Anglicans:

You have been strangely warned.

MargaretG said...

To add to your puzzle, if you look on the Methodist church website under "find a church" there are none listed for the whole of the Canterbury region.

The mystery deepens

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Margaret

They are listed under "Central South Island"

There are still Methodist churches functioning in Christchurch!

Anonymous said...

I only have the Methodist figures for 2008 (not 2009 sorry).

In 2008 the average Sunday attendance at Methodist parishes across all of New Zealand was 5,218. In addition a further 6,672 people attended Union and co-operating parishes with Methodist involvement (though clearly only a proportion of these would self-identify as Methodist).

The average Methodist (not Union) parish had 67 people in attendance, however this average was pulled up significantly by the Tongan congregations (average attendance 210) and the Samoan congregations (86). The non-Pasifika congregations had only an average of 52 people in attendance. It would not be hard therefore to imagine that there are a very large number of very small parishes in their network.

Those attending non-Pasifika parishes are considerably older as well. For instance they had on average one child for every 7 adults in attendance, where the Samoan parishes had 1 in 4 and the Tongans had almost 1 for every 2 adults.

Kurt said...

Concerned about losing Methodists in New Zealand? Here, take some of ours; we have plenty (at last count about 8 million members--twice the population of NZ).

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY