I finished my last post by stating power and control, of the Fairfield Uniting Church and Congregation, was a driving force behind Fairfield Uniting current problems. I also stated a reason the 'problems' don't 'get fixed' is primarily driven by the Elders and Church Councillors NOT wanting to 'lose' the dictatorial control they currently enforce because it is not in their best interest to do so.
“Because it is not in their best interest to do so.” Let's return to that point toward the end of this post*.
Yesterday (Sunday the 21st) was a very enjoyable day. We attended two church services; one quite close to Fairfield Uniting and one some distance away. The reason? Well because we could and, it provided us the opportunity to worship with members of our family who have previously been driven away from Fairfield Uniting. In doing so it reminded me of just how different Fairfield Uniting is to other churches. The most stark difference being the welcome we received; even knowing who we were we were still welcomed; not a feeling we have been accustomed too at Fairfield Uniting for a very long time.
Attending two services means two sermons: the first being about the role music, in particular, singing plays in Christian worshiping. An interesting choice of subject, by a young minister, which focused on the reasons music, singing in praise in particular, was important. The sermon came with some warnings though; one warning being that we should pay close attention to the words and their meanings**.
At Fairfield Uniting singing, led by an organist/pianist, has always played a significant part of worship. At least that was the case until Fairfield Uniting Elders and Church Councillors decided to push her away from the congregation and switch to appallingly discordant canned music – with one exception of course. That exception is, of course, the Solifoni singer's see how good are we - when it suits us – segment. **Pleasing to the ear if not to the soul: indeed my current thoughts turn to the Solifoni's singing (recently) about being Sunday Christians. I remember thinking how appropriate (ironic maybe) the song was being sung by Fairfield Uniting's (pseudo self appointed Elders) Church Councillors!
The second sermon started with the minister posing the question, “what do I do?”. What do ministers actually do? Great question(s) and one some, in some congregations, might struggle to answer if asked to express their knowledge, of the tasks/jobs their ministers did on days other than Sunday.
The minister delivering the sermon proceeded to outline what tasks/jobs he and his ministry team (of four) did on any given week and it was a considerable list. But there were important points he was about to make and as a backdrop to his sermon he referenced the words of Paul as recorded in Romans 15 specifically verses 14 to 33.
The initial question asked and the 'works' of Paul were and, are not about their effort, they are about the opportunity which was and is provided to each of these individual, and us all, to pass on, to others, the teachings of Christ. For Paul, in his travels, it was to take Christ teachings to the gentiles. In a similar manner so it is for each of us and whilst we may not be (always) forging new ground as did Paul, none the less, as Christians, we are charged with the responsibility of ensuring that which we do, with the opportunities presented, does reflect Christ's teachings. Gods work is not about us or the time we spend doing it***!
There were several other questions posed to the congregation, during the sermon, but there was one in particular which struck a cord with me. It was this; “what happens when it goes pear shaped.....”? When what goes pear shaped you may be asking? For the person preaching he was referring to churches which may be failing in one form or another and he suggested the reason may well be rooted in the fact Christ and his teachings were no longer the centre of focus. He suggested if the focus of a church's activity had shifted to its leadership in preference to Christ then it was in trouble.
He continued, and ended by asking his congregation to do four things, all under the heading of “Keeping God at the Centre”.
One) Pray to be humble and to glorify God.
Two) To give thanks for the ministry team. (Minister(s), leaders.
***Three) To “rebuke us” (the ministry team/leaders) if 'it' becomes about us and not Jesus.
Four) Partner with leaders. 'You' cannot do ministry on your own. Minister to one another.
Four (4) very important points, applicable to all churches, including Fairfield Uniting, but the two which hit home for me were points Three & Four. The minister speaking was inviting his congregation to “rebuke” him and the church leaders if they 'strayed' onto a path which was about them and not All About Jesus. Sound familiar?
Can you imagine Fairfield Uniting's Edlers and Church Councillors being rebuked by any person in the Fairfield Uniting's congregation. Truth is, the 'problems' of Fairfield Uniting, are very heavily embedded in the forced control exercised, by Fairfield Uniting's Elders and Church Councillors, the root cause of the 'problems' at Fairfield Uniting is the focus demanded by the Elders and Church Councillors on their rights, privilege and their right to control!
The Elders and Church Councillors have morphed their privileged positions into posts which they perceive are separate to the congregation, and above being challenged or questioned in any way. That is more than evident each Sunday as the Tweed and Solifoni show raises its curtain, struts down the aisle, parades and performs its stuff around and throughout a Sunday service.
Is Sunday at Fairfield Uniting about Jesus or the Tweeds and Solifonis? Working two full days in the diner we were told at length without one single mention about Jesus? Driving the bus is a Foni responsibility; “I am in charge” he scolded me continuing with, it is only he who will decide who is to be picked up or not and when it suits.
The Elders and Church Councillors, of Fairfield Uniting, have set themselves above being questioned by any person in the congregation; their dictatorial approach is why Fairfield Uniting is not a place which has or keeps God at the Centre.
Point Four); “Partner with leaders. 'You' cannot do ministry on your own. Minister to one another.”
Taking these three points backwards:
“Minister to one another.” How do you see this playing out at Fairfield Uniting?
“You cannot do ministry on your own.” This is true but I perceive, at Fairfield Uniting it is understood the Tweeds and Solifonis have the task of Ministry well in hand no need for any further assistance and even then only if it's done exactly as they define. Control!
“Partner with leaders.” ;-) at Fairfield Uniting, yeah right. Not easy to write anything in response to this statement except it ain’t going to happen/work effectively, at Fairfield Uniting, whilst the Elders and Church Councillors continue down the very treacherous path they have been following for a very long time.
Can Fairfield Uniting ever be 'fixed'? I do, and always have, believe it can. However that is going to require a huge shift in the thinking by the entire congregation but mostly by the Elders and Church Councillors.
Fairfield Uniting's leaders, long ago, 'lost the plot'; Fairfield Uniting is most definitely about them and NOT Jesus and that must change!
* So we arrive back at the beginning of this post which started with “a reason the 'problems' don't 'get fixed' (at Fairfield Uniting church) is primarily driven by the Elders and Church Councillors NOT wanting to 'lose' the dictatorial control they currently enforce because it is not in their best interest to do so.
“Because it is not in their best interest to do so.”
Once you understand why that previous statement is true, the 'problems' of Fairfield Uniting are obvious!
Am I wrong in emphasizing this point over and over again? I really don't think so.
It is so obvious God is not centered nor factored into Fairfield Uniting's Elders and Church Councillors decisions, enforced congregational control, the rage and abuse exercised; “Because it is not in their best interest to do so.”
I conclude this post with Romans 15:1-7 from the Good News Bible;
We who are strong in the faith ought to help the weak to carry their burdens. We should not please ourselves. Instead, we should all please our brothers and sisters for their own good, in order to build them in the faith. For Christ did not please himself. Instead, as the scripture says, “The insults which are hurled at you have fallen on me. Everything written in the Scriptures was written to teach us, in order that we might have hope through the patience and encouragement which the Scriptures gives us. And may God, the source of the patience and encouragement, enable you to have the same point of view among yourselves by following the example of Christ Jesus, so that all of you together may praise with one voice the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, for the glory of God, as Christ has accepted you.