History is guide to future of Norfolk churches

JohnDrakeResearchWebLooking to the rich Christian heritage in Norwich and thinking strategically about the future can help the city’s churches address a 25-year decline in numbers.
That was the message of Sheriff of Norwich John Drake and top Christian researcher, Dr Peter Brierley, to 30 church leaders in Norwich at en event organised by Transforming Norwich on April 13.
In the third and final part of our series, we look to the substantial Christian history in Norwich and two ways in which the church can start thinking strategically about combating the decline in church attendance of the past 25 years. Keith Morris reports.

Speaking at an event organized by Transforming Norwich, at the Salvation Army Citadel in the city centre, John Drake said: “We have a city with a history and heritage.
“My pilgrimage as Sheriff over the last year has had a profound effect on me. I wanted to find out the history of our city, its DNA, the promises God has made to our predecessors.
John said: “As my year of office draws to a close, I have been constantly reminded that our county, but particularly our city, has a history, if not a heritage, of vigorous non-conformity, radical action and occasionally bloody revolution.  However, my hero remains Thomas Bilney, tutor to Tyndale, whose translation of the Scriptures forms a large part of the King James Bible.”
Protestant martyr Thomas Bilney was burnt to death at Lollards Pit in Norwich in 1531.
John also spoke of Norwich men Thomas and Matthew Parker (who later became Archbishop of Canterbury) and John Aldridge in the 1550s, when Norwich was the second most important city in the whole country.
The churches of St Peter Mancroft and St Andrews raised sufficient monies to pay for food to feed the thousands of poor in the city, averting uproar. They combined to push a similar reform through Parliament which later former the basis of the Elizabethan Poor Laws.
Other well-known Norwich Christian forebears included social reform pioneers Elizabeth Fry, who fought for pioneering prison reform, and anti-slavery campaigner Thomas Fowell Buxton
John concluded: “Our history is our guide to the future and we must not ignore it. We are now experiencing a Christian unity not seen in our city for a generation.”
PeterBrierleyBookWebPeter Brierley is director of Christian Research and the man behind the definitive English Church Census and Religious Trends. He looked at two possible ways in which the church can start thinking strategically about combating the decline in church attendance of the past 25 years
 “We have to think, plan, pray and work more strategically,” said Peter.
“Strategic thinking is the ability to think and plan with long-term insight in the light of current developments and to identify consequent, deliverable key areas of action.
“Your strategy is a small number of big decisions which will affect the future of your church for the next three to five years,” he said.
There are two different ways of doing this suggested Peter.

1 Where there is no vision the people perish.

This involved forward thinking and the need to crystallize four key concepts
Purpose: why are you here or why was your church started. This is different to a goal such as to grow to 100 people strong in a year’s time.
Mission: what are you doing? What is God’s purpose for your church?
Vision: what will you become? What will be different as a consequence of your work by the year 2012
Thrusts: How will you get there? Thinking forward out of your present experience

2 Working back from the future to the present

This is called Horizon Mission Methodology. What do I have to do in the next year to get to the future I envisage in 10 years’ time?
For this, you need a vision of what you want to become in five/ten years time and an idea of what you will and will not sacrifice in order to get there.
Summing up the workshop, Transforming Norwich chairman, John Betts, said: “This workshop was very stimulating, an inspiration and an encouragement. We have seen the facts and glimpsed the future and now need to do differently in the light of what we have learned. We can either profit from our history, learn and grow, or fail to move on.”


Published: 16/05/2007