The purpose of the meeting was to receive a review of the Brockville Community Church, which is the small ecumenical church set in a suburb high on a hill on the outskirts of Dunedin. The church building is unprepossessing, to say the least. The people work in the sorts of places where at the end of the day something actually gets made, but some of their neighbours, and indeed some of the congregation, are not working at all for one reason or another and the suburb is not awash with cash. Neither is the church. For many years a small leadership group have struggled on, providing ministry from their own resources; doing it well but getting very tired in the process. Then a year or so ago they entered an arrangement with the local Methodist Synod and with the neighbouring Presbyterian congregation to share in the ministry of Andrew Scott and the development has been dramatic. The church now has two very healthy youth groups, a busy children's ministry, some quite innovative social outreach programmes and lively experimental worship. While the Sunday services are still not bursting at the seams there is a steady stream of new families joining the church as the congregation's profile is raised in the community. But all this stuff is not what impressed me. As I entered the room last night, the good will and community spirit were immediately obvious. In a way which I might have hoped to see elsewhere, people treated one another with affection and respect and were openly grateful for and enthusiastic about each other's giftings. Despite the fact that this was a JRC meeting, I had a sense of being part of the Body of Christ. It was a pleasure and a privilege to sit amongst them. So that's the good news.
Now for the bad news. All this energy and life has a very doubtful future. The funding from the Methodists will cease next year and Andrew will need to find ministry elsewhere unless the community can come up with sums which are, at the moment, well beyond them. I couldn't help but be aware of the ironies. Our diocese is in decline all over the place but here, where the Holy Spirit is making an obvious and dramatic statement of presence, we may not be able to continue. We have quite literally millions of dollars worth of land and buildings and cash assets scattered around the countryside between the Waitaki River and Stewart Island, but the work of the Gospel in this out on the edge suburb may founder for the want of one stipend.
I have until June next year to mull this one over. Believe me, between now and then, on behalf of the Brockville Community Church, I will be badgering the one who has at his disposal the cattle of a thousand hills.