Welcome to St John the Baptist Church in Smalley, Derbyshire.

HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM YOUR (RETIRING) PARISH PRIEST

The New Year should bring Smalley and Morley (with Breadsall) a new parish priest – I hope that s/he enjoys being a country parson as much as I’ve enjoyed the last couple of years among you – I wish all of you well with her/him.

What about the future of the Church? I expect the Church of England to remain charitable, open, welcoming, tolerant, compassionate and undogmatic. It will continue to minister not just to its own flock – doing a huge amount of good for a huge number of people well beyond its pews, work that will still go almost entirely unreported – work with no expectation that the beneficiaries be Christian. I look forward to the Church coming to terms with homosexuality and even marrying gay couples.

I’m sure there will be changes. I expect there to be far fewer church buildings. Many have come to the end of their mission, not necessarily because of unfaithfulness, but because they are in the wrong place or have outlived being restored yet again. I suspect there will be a greater concentration on larger church gatherings to which people travel (or perhaps log in); and I believe Cathedrals will still be bucking the trend. There may be many who combine occasional visits to large gatherings with a more intimate and informal experience of a local Christian group.

News coverage of Christian activity will be minimal; the Archbishop of Canterbury may soon lose his seat in the House of Lords; state funded Church schools may be a thing of the past. There will no doubt still be some great issue that divides Christians from one another, but with any luck it will no longer be about gender; it might be technological or environmental or something else we can’t yet imagine. The Church in Britain (though not necessarily in South America or China) will be smaller and perhaps more different from the society around it, a counter-cultural witness keeping the rumour of God alive.

There may, of course, be another great revival – I hope and pray that Renewal and Reform and Ministry Areas will lead to growth. But whatever happens in the
years ahead God will still love all of us; people will still be finding those with whom they can read the Bible and share bread and wine

The Very Revd Geoffrey Marshall

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