Locum calls for focus on communities not buildings

A Dundee locum believes the Church of Scotland’s ability to help people in need is being diminished by too much focus being directed on keeping churches open.

Gordon Sharp
Mr Sharp believes churches throughout the country are currently “stretched” and that ways can be found to enable ministers and others to focus on mission, not governance or buildings. (Photo: The Courier)

Locum Gordon Sharp, of Dundee West Church, said too much emphasis has been made on material structures while the message of Jesus diminishes in society.

The former banker said: “This isn't about the lack of ministers or the lack of members. This is about the way of Jesus, the way of life (better to give than to receive) - this is under threat through neo-liberal capitalism (a deep seated love of money) and egocentric nationalism.

“Sorry, but the greatest challenge facing the Kirk is the Kirk and what it holds as important.

“Do we really enable the growth of spirituality through prayer, meditation, contemplation and action?

"These are very important questions and sorry - more important, in my view, than structure.”

Capacity

Mr Sharp believes churches throughout the country are currently “stretched” and that ways can be found to enable ministers and others to focus on mission, not governance or buildings.

He said: “I think in many respects the church does not have the capacity it has had in the past. Sometimes we assume it does. With people getting older and with fewer people, there isn’t always the capacity.

"If people’s capacity is focused on a building or on committees then they don’t have the energy or time to commit to other things.

“We can all form one community in dealing with these issues, irrespective of what we believe, irrespective of where we come from.

"We need to recognise it isn’t just about people on pews. We need to connect with communities and bring other people in who want to do stuff…we’re all human beings trying to make a difference.”

Gordon Sharp1
The locum minister of Dundee West Church said too much emphasis has been made on material structures while the message of Jesus diminishes in society. (Photo: The Courier)

Justice and peace

On the future of the Kirk, Mr Sharp said: “The vision is the dream of God. The dream of justice and peace, not of church.

“The church must serve this dream. Jesus sent folks out to bring healing and sharing. Asset based community development in my view. So, I'd like to see church as communities of well-being, communities of resistance to neo-
liberal capitalism and divisive politics. Based, of course, on the compassion of Christ.”

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Dundee West Church will host a series of lectures in partnership with Dundee University beginning on March 21. The Progressive Christianity Network will focus on both politics and "economics from a socially conscious perspective". For more info, click here.