The church where I am going in Grahamstown actually consists of 19 different preaching points. I received a copy of the preaching plan last week and am beginning to see things as they really are (and not people's guesses and surmises). Some of these points are quite distant from the centre - the furthest is 80km, but most are actually in a fairly close area. There is a school of thought that says that they should all be brought together and that they should worship together and function under the leadership of the minister. But these places resist that. They are presumably led by Methodist 'stewards' and 'local preachers'. The minister will see them to give communion about once a quarter and does some pastoral work occasionally. But the communities really run themselves.
Isn't this the ideal that many people strive for? Close-knit Christian communities that are present in their own communities as a place that Jesus is known. Able to reach out to their neighbours, because they live and worship in the same place. And they have the continuity of leadership that cannot be supplied by the church - because paid ministers cost money.
So much 'emergent church' stuff and 'new thinking' has been done by the Methodist Church in South Africa for years and years. Of course, I don't know how effective the structures are in Grahamstown - according to what I value! That remains to be seen.
Stephen Murray blogged about the requirements for missional community leaders. What will my role be? How can I best equip and encourage these leaders? Many of whom have years more experience in their situation than I will ever have.