The first is that a lot of people are joining in. More are attending our mid-week central gathering than usual, others are emailing ideas or collaring us at church on Sunday to express a view or ask a question. This is all great - though collating it all and getting that disseminated to others is a challenge!
The second is that people are talking and listening to each other. There was a healthy degree of honesty last week and even disagreement that didn't descend into rancour. I had the sense of people expressing their view and then, on hearing a contrary view reasonably stated, pausing to reflect on whether they should amend their view. This is progress, I feel.
Over on Stuart Blythe's excellent Word at the Barricades, he reflects on whether we should count as members those who turn up to discuss and discern what God is saying to the church. I like this bottom-up, non-institutional approach. Stuart says:
maybe members should be recognised as those who attend the meetings to share in
the discussing and discerning! To put that differently, if we consider that
the practice of communal discernment is important, if that is a conviction, let
us make it more important in practice not less.
I like his phrase 'communal discernment'. It strikes me that this is what congregational government ought to be about. It seems to me to be what Paul argues on 1 Corinthians 2 about us having the mind of Christ.
I do have an observation/question about it, however, and it's this: people seem to have a default position that they do not want to things they find comfortable and familiar to change. We want new people to join the church but we don't want the way we do church to be affected by that. So when those people gather to 'communally discern' they tend to think that God is interested in maintaining the status quo, the way we do things here. After all, at some point in our history, we have communally discerned that this is the right way to do things.
So it seems to me that the role leaders have in congregational government is to bring the bigger picture against which communal discernment now must take place. And that bigger picture is especially informed by scripture and culture and particularly the reading of scripture in the light of the cultural situation in which we must embody, incarnate our gathering called church.
So it seems to be that communal discernment has to be about hearing Christ in the scriptures and the wider world as well as about hearing Christ through one another gathered to chart a way forward.