Like any other community a church needs to know where it is going. It needs a vision. We asked Andy Scarcliffe, the minister of Portobello Baptist Church what his vision is for the future of the church.
Portobello Baptist Church: Andy, what kind of vision do you have for our church?
Andy. It’s early days to talk about the church’s vision. We’re in a process of shaping our vision just now. That’s something we haven’t yet worked through. However based on my approach and past experience, I can give a sense of what it might look like.
Portobello Baptist Church: Fire away!
Andy. Well fundamentally we will be in the business of helping people become true followers of Jesus Christ. One mission statement my previous church used was “to make and multiply fully committed disciples of Jesus Christ”. Every event and activity was checked against that yardstick. People in our world want to see something that is real. They want to see belief backed up by a life which lives it out.
Portobello Baptist Church: Helping people follow the teachings and life of Jesus. Anything else?
Andy. For me the worship ethos is important also. If that inspires, then people will be energised to work for God in the community, in the church, at their work, and so on.
Portobello Baptist Church: What do you mean by “worship ethos”?
Andy: It’s a fair cop! I’ve been huckled by the jargon police! I suppose I’m talking about the Sunday morning gathering. It’s the mixture of songs, prayers, silence, reflective thoughts and celebration that goes into that event.
Portobello Baptist Church: Anything else important.
Andy: Yes, worship is important, but church has to go deeper. There must be a sense of community where the masks come down. In each of my churches we have met midweek in people’s homes where we pray, drink coffee, laugh, discuss and so on. They have also been launch pads for acts of practical care in the world. For instance one of the groups I was in decorated the flat of a family in the community that was in need. That saves the group from being some kind of naval gazing holy huddle. We went for meals, the theatre, jazz nights, whatever helped celebrate life. So worship, discipleship, depth of relationship. And one more value would be mission, or witness.
Portobello Baptist Church: Meaning?
Andy: Sharing our faith with others.
Portobello Baptist Church: What shape would that have in Portobello?
Andy. Portobello has a fair number of people interested in spirituality. That excites me. I would assume nothing, and engage in conversation. I would listen for questions being asked, and try to help the person find the answer. When I examined the Christian faith, I drew my conclusions through dialogue as well as God coming “near” through prayer and reading the scriptures. I was given the space to disagree and the journey was as important as the destination. Although I believe I have found the answer, I still have questions. It’s like Bono once said: “when you become a Christian you don’t get all the answers. You just get a different set of questions”.
Portobello Baptist Church: So if someone turned up this Sunday what can they expect?
Andy: Hmmmm. We try not to take ourselves too seriously. We take the Message seriously, but not ourselves. Hence there is humour, informality, a blend of musical styles ranging from unaccompanied psalms to more contemporary music. We have a band that plays for the worship. We use video clips from films to illustrate the message. We have space for quiet and reflection. We sometimes read psalms of lament to give the strugglers and doubters a voice. A too-modern approach loses the mystery and sometimes the dignity of worship. A too-traditional approach loses the excitement and power. The church in general is rediscovering some of the ancient spiritual practices like meditation and contemplative prayer. I find that enriching.
Portobello Baptist Church: Of course worship isn’t just about Sunday services…?
Andy. You’re absolutely right. In one sense all that we do should be offered as worship, but in terms of the church community, our weekly gathering needs to inspire. Worship is about Monday to Friday workplace life, it’s about caring for the planet. Without that, hymn-singing can be an escape into an unreal world.
Portobello Baptist Church: May vision become a reality. Thank you.