URC and the discourse about being too diverse

First something for people to ponder and get back to me upon. Martin my supervisor started to day to ponder that the URC had more similar theological core ideas than Anglicanism did. I challenged this, I think effectively by pointing out that I have on occasions to use an “Anglican dialect” in order to get ideas across on places like Ship of Fools which is dominated by Anglicans. However my reason for challenging that was not that experience but being involved in the “Who the Heck are we?” I heard people within the URC expressing the exact same sort of opinion about the URC. So I am sceptical about both claims.

    However it is worth pondering that some people in the URC don’t feel that there is a lot in common with others in the URC. I suspect it has a number of roots.

    1. Firstly I think that some of it is due to our independent spirit. The feeling that the way the our URC does things is the way our URC does thing and is a full legitimate way of being URC in all its idiosyncrasy. 
    2. Secondly I think that when people start to encounter other URC congregations there is surprise at the different valid forms of being URC that others have. It is a richness but it also starts many people asking about what does it mean to be URC. 
    3. Thirdly I think there is some genuine bewilderment at the diversity, especially on certain hot issues. 
    4. However I suspect there is some importing of the Anglican discourse where there are real and current power struggles going on. The question is if the Anglican’s are having such a difficulty on keeping their show on the road, why aren’t these issues causing us equally difficulty. 

    That last question needs answering in multiple ways, both in terms of:

    • our independent heritage which leaves us with a much more  bottom up structure than the Anglican Communion, 
    • the commitment to unity and therefore travelling together, 
    • that tensions have been faced at other stages, remember what the 1990s were like anyone?
    • conditionality of our understanding of revelation which results in a blurred identity 
    • that we have several not just one hot topic, anyone fancy a round on whether its necessary for a Christian to be pacifist?

    What exactly do we mean by “welcoming and friendly”?

    Let me be clear as far as I can ascertain all United Reformed Churches are “Welcoming and Friendly”. By this, I don’t mean all congregations claim that. All congregations of all denominations claim that. What I mean is that from my own experience, I can only think of one congregation I have ever heard of as being unfriendly and that was a decade before the report. Also, I have been reading Mystery Worshipper reports on Ship of Fools it seems to be a constant theme when talking about a United Reformed congregation.

    I have sort of felt that when the growth experts, go on about how a church should be welcoming and friendly at least as far as the URC is concerned, they are preaching to the converted. We have sorted what being welcoming is at least as far as the reports go. People are not being turned away from the United Reformed Congregations in vast droves because the congregations are unwelcoming. It is not just a matter that congregation have to more welcoming and people will flood in. If I could suggest anything to the church people interested in Evangelism it would be that they let go of being a welcoming and friendly congregation and concentrated their efforts elsewhere. Being a “Welcoming and friendly” congregation only matters once you have people coming in. If those people never come in, then it does not matter how you perfect your skills at being “friendly and welcoming” you will not recruit anybody.

    However, my view is changing. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe that all United Reformed Churches are doing their best to be welcoming and friendly and for the most part succeeding. What I no longer believe is that all United Reformed Churches understanding “Welcoming and friendly” to mean the same thing.

    So does a church being welcoming and friendly mean:

    1. that others in the congregation recognise you, are mildly interested in what is going on in your life and are ready to chat when you meet
    2. that the congregation provides happenings on a daily basis so that you never need to be lonely but can always go down to the church and chat with somebody
    3. that they keep a note of when you are not in church and check how you are when you are absent for a couple of weeks
    4. that you find it easy to form friendships with people there
    5. that they are ready to help you out even if this is your first visit to the congregation.
    6. that someone greets you at the door and someone talks to you at your first visit.

    I guess that the list could go on. The point is not that one of these is correct and the others are wrong but that people will construct being a “welcoming and friendly” congregation to be those of the above that they are good at. Some congregations will even decide that certain of those behaviours are anything but welcoming and friendly.