Here’s an opening line to a conversation you never hear.\r\n\r\n“You can have your church buildings, or you can have a vicar, but you can’t have both”\r\n\r\nWe’re in a strange world where it’s easier to remove clergy than sell buildings. Two reasons for this immediately come to mind. First, there’s a belief that keeping the buildings (up)together keeps the congregation together, and this combination of buildings and people IS the church. Second, it’s simply easier for a diocese to reorganise to reduce staff than to sell assets. Presumably this is done in the hope that one day effective leadership will grow the church back to full occupancy and full staff numbers.\r\n\r\nBut as my bishop says, the first task of leadership is to define reality.\r\n\r\nIf there’s a small church, getting smaller, where no-one has come to faith for a decade, and without the income to support the buildings let alone a full time member of the clergy, then something has to give.\r\n\r\nIt’s reality.\r\n\r\nBut of course a small church, like any church, wants it all. It’s had it in the past, and in it’s own collective conciousness the past is the model for the future.\r\n\r\nBut wouldn’t it be a great conversation starter, in answer to the demand for a new vicar, to offer one or the other, the buildings or the staff?\r\n\r\nIt’ll never happen of course, but if it did I suspect the conversation on its own might start to radically redefine a church.