The fiasco of St Sepulchre’s closing its doors to the musicians for whom the church is named has finally woken the public up to what is going on within the Church of England. If your measure of success is the sheer volume of worshippers you can attract, then of course you will prefer to prioritise the accommodation of the faithful rather than lend your buildings to those who are of more dubious and less manifest faith.
But whose ecclesiology is this? Who is the venerable theologian that we are all following now? He has a name, but Koomi of Smale is sadly not one of the Desert Fathers you might study at Theological College. Rather, he is the literary invention of one Sir Terry Pratchett RIP. He is introduced in the book Small Gods as the religious philosopher who explained that the size and powerfulness of any given God was in direct proportion to how many believers that God had managed to attract. Some Gods were therefore massive presences in the cities, while some gods had become mere voices in the desert.
I know I keep banging on about this, but it really matters: the size, shape, faithfulness, accuracy, diligence or style of our belief does not change God, it changes US. So while it is a kind of strategy to go for quantity, in the hope that in swelling the numbers (and the coffers) we can swell our influence, such a strategy is also a sort of mis-direction. It assumes we can only win if we have the biggest army (and, by the way, that Right is exclusively on our side). But if we really do believe in God, we should be relaxed about leaving the counting to him. He is likely to be favouring different metrics anyway. Meanwhile what we can do, as salt and light, is really love our neighbours, and fight for justice for them, while God takes care of the reckoning.
Of course building the community and deploying that community are not mutually exclusive activities, but they feel like conflicting priorities in the current climate. If our job is really to preach to the converted, the current strategy is the perfect one, and St Sepulchre’s is doing the correct thing. If however we should be making disciples of all nations by living out the Gospel, we need to get out more. And that starts the moment you open your doors.