Older generations in the Church of England will remember a time of tea and cake on the vicarage lawn, of talking about the weather, and gossiping about women who wanted to be priests and the latest revision to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.
It was almost more common to talk about how to be a Christian without
believing in the bodily resurrection than to talk about the good news
of Jesus Christ.
There were even some occasions when, it has to be confessed, to
mention Jesus' name at all was even just a little bit embarrassing.
Those times, it seems, have gone for good. And, apart from the cakes
and lovely summer vicarage parties of course, that is probaby for the
good as well.
The latest videos from CofE headquarters in London have passionate
Christians, men and women from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York on
down, sharing passionately about taking the message of Jesus Christ
onto the streets of England.
This is part of the "Renewal and Reform" programme,
a bold new attempt by bishops and laity to reverse the long-running
decline of the Church of England which, according to latest figures
released earlier this year saw the number of people attending Church of
England services each week falling below 1 million for the first time.
However, for the man whose vision has made this new strategy
possible, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, it actually is not
about reversing decline at all. Nor is it about putting more bottoms on
pews – or on cushioned chairs, as in many cases they now are.
Two new videos have been published which show how the Church is harnessing new digital strategies to the evangelism imperative.
Archbishop Welby explains: "Witness to who Jesus is and seeking to
bring others to know him, what we often call evangelism, is the overflow
through us of what God has given us in Jesus Christ.
"It's nothing to do with survival strategies or rebuilding the numbers in the Church. It's that we have found and experienced the love of God in such
transforming power, in ourselves and in our communities, in our
households, in all those around, that we want others to find the hope,
the security, the reality, the challenge, the excitement of following
Jesus Christ as his disciple."
Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu says: "Our job is to be out there,
on the streets, wherever it is, sharing this amazing message of Jesus:
that he actually forgives us our sins, gives us new life in the present
and hope for the future."
The second of the four films currently being uploaded is themed on the vision and narrative.
Bishop of Burnley Philip North says: "The renewal and reform
programme is serious about the major challenges that confront the
Church. But it faces those challenges, not with anxiety, but with a real
hope, a hope born out of utter confidence that Jesus has won the
victory and that the triumph of his love is sure."
He says this is not some "vague wish list or a letter to Santa".
These hopes are based in utter confidence in the goodness of God.
"We can at times fall into the temptation of being an anxious Church,
worried about our future as an institution. But there's no place for
anxiety in God's kingdom. The future is hopeful and the renewal and
reform programme invites us to embrace that hope for the future, a hope
based in the promises of God."
Youth Council representative Alexandra Podd says: "For me a hopeful
future is about there still being a Church in 20 years that my
generation can serve and be served by. It's so important that we equip
the young people in our churches to go out in their communities and
share the good news of Jesus.
"We've got to remember the hundreds and thousands of people out in
our areas who don't know the good news of Jesus Christ especially in
this bleak media world, we have to share our hopeful future with them."