With the steep decline in the number of people worshipping, it is becoming clear that congregations will not be able to afford the luxury of paying someone to conduct their worship. We have lived through an era when this was the case, when congregations of people contributed by way of an” offering” to sustain and promote the work of the Church, with a large proportion of this going towards meeting the cost of a “Minister” ordained by the Church to conduct and preach at services and to provide pastoral care. With the secularisation of our society, and diminishing numbers attending worship, this is fast becoming, and indeed has become, a non sustainable situation.
An alternative approach, and one successfully used by the Methodist Church over the centuries, has been to appoint “ Lay Preachers”, members of the Church, who are prepared to conduct worship and preach the sermon. The number of people prepared to be lay preachers has also dropped dramatically.
Another approach is that of the “part time” Minister – an alternative approach successfully used in my home town Church of Wembley Downs. This involves a person spending part of his or her time in secular employment, and part as a “Minister” in a local church. This has worked well but has a number of problems, the foremost being the allocation of hours. In our particular case, it has resulted in the so called half time Minister doing the work of a full time Minister for half the cost!
To me, and others, it is obvious that the present practice of worship is changing/ has changed and a new approach is required. The alternative form of worship that follows is but one suggestion.
It needs a few explanatory comments:
(1) It is envisaged that it be used about every four weeks or so. Similar services by other people could be similarly used.
(2) No one conducts the service. The full script is handed out to the congregation in booklet form with different passages highlighted. The person who receives a highlighted copy reads the highlighted words when appropriate.
(3) The “imported sermon” is either (a) one preached on the Net or (b) or one “inspiringly” read by one of the congregation. The duration should be no longer than 12 minutes – the period of concentration used by newspaper editors. To get some idea of the quality of sermons preached on the Net have a look at Lori Walke at the Oklahoma Mayflower Church. A portable modem and a lap top could meet the need of small congregations. Larger congregations could use a screen. Laughing Bird Liturgical Resources is also a significant resource.