Saturday, 18 April 2015

Annual Report of the Mission Committee

If you haven't seen Dave Walker's cartoons, you should. Today I'm particularly  inspired by Dave's imagining of a church council mission committee as a dead end on the Tube. You can see the full cartoon (which is brilliantly conceived) by buying a copy of the Church Times, or taking out a subscription....

It is, of course, a given that mission committees always fail to meet. Some people have been on Church mission committees for years without having the faintest idea what might happen if one actually took place. Some churches have the agenda item, "Explanation for why the Mission Committee Did not Meet". But it happens that the Report to the Annual Meeting of a mission committee that actually did meet has come into my possession. I share it, suitably redacted. The names have been changed to protect... well, to protect, basically.


It has been a busy year for the Mission Committee, meeting three times. Which is the most since the Methodists all left in 1802.


At our first meeting in eight years, we spent our time mostly discussing who should be on the committee. Aggie was one suggestion, although her ardent atheism was considered to be an obstacle to her interest in Mission. But she does have a laser printer. And Ron had hoped he might be able to come on Thursdays, but only on weeks when Everton weren't on telly. Which would likely rule him out of the September meeting. Then Dora would be interested in mission to children, but she is already on the Sunday Club committee, the street pastors, the fete committee, she's the Mothers' Union chair, she leads the bellringers, runs the Tuesday lunches, works full-time and has four small children and a husband who spends all his time in the Plume of Feathers. We agreed to ask if she'd be Chair.

David is keen on Mission, but the terms of his restraining order prevent him coming within five miles of the church hall, which is problematic.Somebody also suggested Ethelberta, but she does not like to go out after 4pm. And we thought it would be more inclusive to allow people who work, or care for children, to be able to attend. We did discuss maybe having two committees - one for people who go out in the day and one for people who go out at night. But that would require permission from the Church Committee. So we put forward that suggestion to the Committee.


At the September meeting, which was unfortunately held on a Thursday when Everton were playing, our new chair, Dora also couldn't attend as it was School Governors. So we didn't really do very much. However we did work out an agenda. And we did ask ourselves what did we mean by Mission. And we decided we didn't know. So we agreed that we would ask Dora to ask the Church Committee what  they meant by Mission. And to agree our agenda. Which was proposed to be as follows:

1. Minutes of the last meeting
2. Matters Arising
3. Any Other Business.

We did discuss whether we should have opening or closing prayer. But we agreed that, since in fact the whole of Mission is, in its way, a prayer, it would be unnecessary. Also, none of us feel comfortable praying in front of other people. We did think of just sitting in silence for a bit. But that can feel uncomfortable - how do you know when you've finished?

The Church Committee had responded to our question about whether to have two Mission Committees by asking us whether they would have totally separate agendas - in which case how we would avoid duplication of effort - or whether they would work to a common goal - in which case how would we co-ordinate?

We weren't sure, and agreed to ask Dora to ask the Church Committee what they would advise.


At the January meeting, we all agreed that Christmas was a good time for mission, as new people or people who only come to Church once a year are there. We regretted not realizing this at the September meeting.  Unfortunately we had no answers from the Church Committee, as Dora wasn't present - it was her night at the Cash  Carry, stocking up for the Food Bank. In any case, she had missed both intervening Church Committees, as she had been preparing for the Christmas Panto in October, and it had clashed with her working at the Night Shelter in December. And who'd have thought Everton would still be in the Europa League come January? Not us, when we'd worked out the meeting schedule. So no Dave, either.

So with no agenda, no chair, only three members and no idea what we were doing, we decided to have a brainstorm at a Mission Strategy.

Suggestions for the Mission Strategy were as follows, with the objections to each.
  1. A Mission Week, with a tent in the churchyard, barbecues, a Youth Band, invited speaker and twelve-week Alpha Course - Too ambitious.
  2. Putting nicely printed cards saying "Come to Church" on the tables at Tuesday lunches - Too pushy, likely to put people off coming for lunches.
  3. Leafleting the town for Easter - Too tiring, and too many of our congregation are too old. Though we did think maybe Dora could do it.
  4. An additional Jumble Sale - We already have 9 a year, and we're now down to just buying back our own junk every six weeks. And Dora really can't organise anymore as she's already missing days as a lay chaplain at the Prison to run the ones she does. 
  5. A youth service - would only appeal to young people.
  6. A "Songs of Praise" service - would only appeal to old people.
  7. Saturday night football - Too strenuous.
  8. Film club - Too expensive to pay the licence.
  9. Inviting a famous footballer to attend - They often play football on Sundays. So this would be too complicated.
  10. Prayer Spaces - Too trendy
  11. Opening the Church during the week - Too risky
  12. Messy Church - Too messy.
  13. Brass Rubbing Club - Too silly.
  14. Clown Church - Too scary. We have had no children in church since the last one.
  15. Facebook - Too modern. We had a lovely debate about how dangerous Social Media is.
  16. Getting involved with other churches to stage an event - Too complicated. And how would we know how to divide up all the converts?
In the end, we concluded that it's all hopeless. We have nothing to invite people for, nothing to do it with. No ideas, no energy, no direction. No message, no selling point, no reason for anyone to visit. Frankly, we believe that we might as well accept that the XXXXXXXX Church is doomed. When they carry the last of the current congregation out in a box, they may as well sell it off as a snooker hall.
It is also true to say that we have suffered from the repeated absence of our Chair. Sadly, she clearly does not have the time to care about Mission.


  1. This brings back the moment of deep gloom and depression I had when someone rubbished the least challenging suggestion on the detailed 5 year mission plan left behind by my predecessor with the comment 'that would be too much for us' and nobody disagreed.

  2. How dangerous Social Media are!
    One medium, two or more media, please!

  3. This is totally off-topic, but I just had to share it with you here, as I;m not on Facebook:

    - from the free paper Blackmore Vale Magazine of 17/4/2015:

    "Dorset literature expert Alan Chedzoy...will be giving the next Literary Lecture at Dorset County Museum.

    "His talk is entitled Thomas Hardy's Humour: A Celebration of a Great Comic Writer.

    I can't wait to have the funny side of Tess of the D'Urbervilles explained.

    And just to let you know that Dorset can give the Beaker Folk of anywhere a run for their money, the same magazine reviews a book splendidly entitled Dorset's Legacy in Rural Bus Shelters.


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