Paul writing to the Corinthian Church affirms, I planted, Apollos watered but God made it grow. (1 Corinthians 3:6). While it is an undisputed fact that it is God who makes churches grow it also reminds us that each of us who in God’s providence are part of the life of the church has a role in nurturing the growth of the church.
As we continue to thank the Lord for the Anglican Church in Freiburg and the blessing it is continuing to be for several lives around us, it is always good to look at strategies of growth. We continue to affirm that the life of a church is a continuum. We thank the Lord for each person who contributed to the life of the church thus far and we are confident that the future of the church is safe in the hands of the Almighty Lord. We who are called to be active, “here and now”, should constantly be able to review our engagement in the life and growth of the church.
1 – Meaningful Worship
The primary reason people come to church is to be in fellowship with God and with each other, to be spiritually strengthened and to commit their lives to be a living sacrifice for the glory of God and to be of help to humanity and all of creation.
A contextually relevant, creatively woven and theologically sound liturgy would be very crucial in this regard. The digital possibilities at ACF and the supportive team ensures that quite a lot of effort is put behind bringing each of our liturgies together.
The liturgies become stronger with the choice of the right songs. The music team tries their best to cater to the varying musical expectations of the people.
Participation of people in taking responsibility of the service, reading, leading intercessions, preparing coffee, helping as sides persons and as welcome team, helping with the Eucharist, supporting with the website and Zoom set ups, helping with beamers and creating the presentations is commendable. It is the participation of ALL that makes worship a heart experience of all who are part of it. We have been insisting ALL means ALL.
The spiritual input through the homilies is yet another salient element of the life of the church. The effort each person puts in to make the Scripture text relevant to a multi-cultural and ethnically diverse congregation need to be noted. The fact that ACF is not a priest dependent chaplaincy must be seen in a positive vibe.
The fellowship time after church and the mid-week communications including the Mid-Week meditations, Complins and the mid-week emails makes the church ‘not just a one day of the week affair’.
All these while being factors for us to be thankful also offers possibilities of improvement and improvisation.
Making Worship Meaningful would be our primary strategy for growth.
2 – Practical Pastoral Care
To be a community of grace is to be near people who need a comforting touch at crossroads in life. Pastoral Care is a community responsibility, and the primary aim is to ensure that the Church is not absent when people want the consoling presence the most.
Regular Pastoral Visits are ensured in ACF with the tagline, the Pastor is just a call away. There are several lay leaders also who take the responsibility of visiting people in times of need.
Home Eucharists are offered to all who ask for the same. The fact that ill-health confines people to homes or care facilities should not stop the presence of the church reaching out to them.
Hospitality is yet another powerful tool of pastoral care. Several homes are offering hospitality to each other, specially to newcomers and this is helpful.
Pastoral Time is made available either at the Vicarage or at the church office or at mutually convenient places whenever required.
Managing transition is always a challenge. When new pastors take charge, it is natural that some people feel uncomfortable, especially when notions of pastors are de-constructed by bold appointments. Managing this element is also a crucial part of pastoral care specially during times of change.
In simple terms everyone must be assured that Pastoral Care is ‘Just a Call Away’ and prudence often times does not wait for the call too.
3 – Intentional Engagement with the Church groups
The ministry of strengthening any church depends on small groups and ACF is a blessed community with the following groups active and functional. Strategically, we just need to strengthen each of these
The Men’s Fellowship meets three times a month. Every first Saturday the men meet for a breakfast and discussion. Every second Tuesday they meet for prayer and one of the Friday evenings the meet for an evening time of open chat.
The Women’s Fellowship meets every alternate Thursday as a Prayer Group. They also meet bimonthly for a breakfast and Discussion
The Wise Ones is intended for the fellowship of the elderly, and they meet bimonthly around cheese, cake and coffee and discuss faith issues
The Families in Faith (FiF) is the fellowship of families that meet to discuss the practical aspects of living out the faith
The Bible Study Groups are regional fellowships to ensure systematic Bible Study
The Mentoring Groups are senior families who take responsibility of new families to ensure that they are mentored in faith
The Reading Group meets every Saturday to discuss Christian Writings
The Vision Group is set up to ensure that the Church does not lose the focus of the Vision
The Safeguarding team works to ensure that the church and all its premises offer safe spaces for all
The Stewardship/ Generosity team ensures that we are able to raise enough resources for the upkeep of the life of the church and more importantly to share with people in need around us.
The Music team ensures that a meaningful music ministry is offered to the church and through the church.
The Ecumenical team ensures that ACF is ecumenically present and active locally and globally
4 – Ministry to Children and the Young People
The Children’s Church. It is such a joy that we could resume children’s church at ACF and I am sure this will attract several more families with children to the church
The permission granted to include Children at Eucharist was a step in the right direction and it is a joy to have so many children join us for communion
The Children who are joining for communion will now be prepared for Confirmation. The combined initiatives with the Petrus Paulos offer new avenues of working together.
The Teens and the Tweens did a good job with the Easter service. They had planned their own initiatives during the weekend away. They will now work together to put up a Shadow play and a special Christmas service on December 18th. We also look forward to actively engage in the larger life of the city and of Europe.
5 – Meaningful Programmes
The Life of the Church is marked by special programmes that caters to the various needs of the different walks of life represented in the church. Of the initiatives we tried despite the challenge of the Pandemic include
Weekend Away: Going away as a chaplaincy for a long weekend we spent quality time in reflections and relaxing and this was a blessing to all who attended and God willing this will continue to be an annual event
Christmas Carols: Getting back to the rhythm of the Nine Carols and ensuring there is room for Joyful singing and Blue Christmas we hope Christmas would be a time of reaching out to many.
Cultural Evenings to celebrate the multiplicity of cultures could surely attract lot of people. This could offer both challenges and immense opportunities.
The Chaplaincy Council retreats we had were both brainstorming together on the life and witness of the Church at the corporate level and at a personal level looking at each person’s faith life challenges. They sure were blessings. The fact that the Council has representatives from all Continents makes it truly the thumbnail of the congregation.
Lent and Passion are surely occasions to concentrate on the cross and the meaning of bearing the cross each day
Occasional BBQs, Teens Hikes, Youth Strolls, Team Skiing, Cycle trails and alike initiatives are being discussed and will find space in the Church Calendar in due time
The Alfa Course and the Easter Vigil with Calvary Chapel also opened possibilities of working together with other English-speaking congregations.
Several more meaningful programmes for nurture and for reaching out are on the anvil.
6 – Ecumenical Openness
The presence of the ACF was evidently seen in the eleventh Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Karlsruhe. When the ecumenical delegation from Karlsruhe visited Freiburg, it was good to offer a combined service at the Old Catholic Church with the United Methodists and the Anglicans leading the service. The Anglican Priest staying in the Old Catholic vicarage is a practical manifestation of this expression. The ACF members are active locally with the initiatives of the ACK and also with the Diocesan Synods and the meetings of the Council of Anglican and Episcopal Churches in Germany. Attempts to revive partnerships with Guilford are being made and new horizons of ecumenical engagements are envisaged.
7 – The search for the Missing Friends
Whatever be the reasons it remains a fact that several people who were once part of the ACF stopped coming at some points in time for varying reasons. While several of them are considering coming back we have not been yet able to reach out to several others. Consistent efforts will now have to be made to reach out to them and we need to be persistent in inviting them back to a welcoming community.
It is the Pandemic that made several others stop coming to the church. Though life is returning to a semblance of normalcy after the Pandemic people are still not decided about coming back. Several people continue to connect to the Zoom services of their native nations and languages. Others would want the service to be more vibrant with ‘praise and worship’ sessions added.
While it might not be able to cater to all expectations, we surely can be open to see what is possible and what is not.
A very intentional reaching out is essential in this regard and we are trying our best.
8 – Being inviting and welcoming to new persons and families
Freiburg is a University City and that means every year several new people come to the city. Reaching out to them is crucial. The efforts in making welcome posters and cards available in strategic places and a vibrant website are yielding fruits. It is matter of thanks that each week we are getting new people to worship
The Welcome team is doing a conscious effort in ensuring that new people are identified, met, contact details sought and followed up
The Mentoring team closely follows up to see if the new families could be helped in any way possible
The Freshers BBQ organised for the people who came fresh to church was a creative initiative and helped bonding of the new people to the church family.
Strategically we want to be as much welcoming and inviting as possible.
9 – Being digitally present and visible
One of the positives from the Pandemic period was that it opened up lot of digital possibilities
Our Worship Services are now available in Zoom so that those who cannot make it to church can continue to be part of it. This is especially helpful to the sick and physically challenged.
We also ensure that the liturgy and the homily are available in the web-page.
The Dynamic Website keeps the congregation abreast with what is happening but is also maintained as a recourse hub with material constantly added.
Compline continues to be held online and several hybrid events are possible.
We had online Bible Studies in preparation for the WCC Assembly which was ecumenically organised.
The ACF presence in the social media and the efforts to reach out to children and young people connecting to them in their language continues to be a goal we pursue.
Laity Education programmes online will be the next step we would launch into taking serious cognisance of the Diocesan initiatives of discipleship training.
10 – Being contextually relevant and future ready
Being Future Ready is a challenge every movement of people should be alert about and ACF is also keen on this aspect. The Diocesan programme of “Walking Together in Faith” is being anticipated with hope. We look forward to a proactive involvement in local and global mission and understands that this will be the hall mark of the church in the days to come.
We will need to ensure growth happens not just qualitatively but also qualitatively. The Good Samaritan Strategies for community engagement and proactive participation in initiatives of Climate Crisis Mitigation and Justice concerns would be key. While diversity is a blessing it need to be prayerfully managed. Leadership building for the future must be a careful priority.
Families need strengthening and the ethical and moral paradigms of life need clearer affirmation while being inclusive and living in love.
We need to be open to an audit of the health of the church, compare notes with the vision that was set for us and then develop a strategy for growth based on the data that emerges from the audit.
A clear financial plan ensuring stability and a pastoral plan ensuring continuity need to be put in place.
Affirming that it is God who blesses churches with growth we need to be more God dependant in our planning and strategizing.
The future is marked by change and depending on God the church also should be willing to adapt to the change while being rooted and grounded in Christ.
O Lord help us to grow as you want us to grow!!!
October 1, 2022