by Linda Bloom, UMNS, Feb. 20, 2018
Bermondsey Central Hall no longer has its grand 2,000-seat sanctuary… Bermondsey is not a Methodist tourist mecca like Wesley’s Chapel, built by Methodism’s founder John Wesley as his London base, or Methodist Central Hall Westminster, across from Westminster Abbey.
But their congregations are all growing, filled with Methodists who have come to London from many other countries, mostly from Africa. And all three are trying to respond to the communities around them, to be relevant — both spiritually and socially — in today’s London.
Such growth is not the norm for many other congregations in the Methodist Church in Britain. A report released during the 2017 British Methodist Conference last June showed that membership had dropped significantly below 200,000 — to 188,000.
The silver lining to this cloud: churches reach an estimated half a million people weekly through cafés, youth clubs and alternative forms of church…
“At the heart of this report, there is a challenge,” the Rev. Gareth J Powell, secretary of the conference, said after the Statistics for Mission report was received. “…that we must take seriously our responsibility for being an evangelistic community of love which leads people to Christ.”
…What does it really take to grow the British Methodist Church?
The Rev. Martyn Atkins, former top executive of the British Methodist Conference and current superintendent minister at Westminster, said the church’s experiment over the past 14 years with what it is called “Fresh Expressions,” has demonstrated that making new disciples is just plain hard work.
Successful ministries take longer and cost more than expected “and whatever you think you’re going to do, you’ve got to do it twice as zealously or twice as creatively to get what you thought was the answer you were going to get,” added Atkins, who is chairperson of the Fresh Expressions board.
Winnie Baffoe is one of the Fresh Expressions pioneer workers employed by the church who is encouraged to think out of the box. She describes her position as “a holy risk.”
She has created “Mummies Republic” at the South London Mission, teaming up with government and social agencies to address the mental health issues and physical and social needs of vulnerable mothers with children aged 5 and under.
“My thing has always been to create a fresh expression of church so that I feel Jesus is walking in the neighborhood,” she declared…
For the Rev. Jennifer Smith, who became the superintendent minister of Wesley’s Chapel last September, the concept of taking Jesus outside the church building is crucial.
“When we are working so hard to keep the doors open…it can be easy to forget that we too can walk out,” she noted. “We do need to move beyond what I would call an attractive model of mission — you come to my house where I can host you and welcome you. Actually, that’s not how Jesus worked.”
Read more at … http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/british-methodists-open-doors-to-stay-relevant?