When a congregation isn’t the centre

After being provided a guided tour of the physical and intellectual space of Clayton Wesley Uniting Church by our host Paul Turley our group discussed what was happening at the site.

Clayton Nov 2013Many observations were made about Clayton and its many groups including the “Goodies” Op Shop, Adelaide East assistance, a Playgroup, and the art and music project in the manse.  But the group that we were most interested in was the congregation.  Once the numerically large centre of the site, now finds itself small and alongside all the other groups on site.

The demise of the Hub and Spoke

We discussed the hub and spoke model of church. Sometime in the past congregations were the centre of their local communities.  In those days communities wanted to know what clergy and congregations had to say.  In that chrisendom environment the hub and spoke model grew and developed.  The Sunday morning worshipping life of the congregation is at the centre with its members going out to run small groups whether they  be bible studies, basketball games, op shops, social justice groups etc).  In this environment the phrase “The end of worship is the beginning of service” stands tall.  For congregations that understand themselves as hubs bringing people in for Sunday worship and send them out for a week of service.

In the post christendom era congregations found they were no longer a central place for community and its life.  While some lament others see it as an opportunity.

To dig into the opportunity one has to ask some questions like;

  • What happens when the congregation becomes aware that it is no longer at the centre (as Clayton has)?
  • And what does this mean for institutional systems of organising which assumes the congregation are hubs?
  • When the external environment radically changes what does it take for an institutional system to adapt?

The next post will cover the questions, topics, workshops and tours Faith in Action will be offering in 2014.

Clayton UCA workshop was held in November 2013 by Peter McDonald and Joanna Hubbard.  Our thanks goes to Paul Turley.

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