Thinking about joining a Church Growth Learning Community (CGLC) but not sure what it entails? We spoke to Monica Bolley, Synodical Secretary for the Diocese of London, about her experience attending the first session of a CGLC with her church, Holy Trinity Southall.
We recognised our need to grow in numbers, and also looked forward to growing in depth, with more people becoming involved in the life of the church. We saw a CGLC as providing a catalyst which would help us to achieve this, ensuring that we focussed on our need for growth and ways to bring it about, with the benefits of learning together with others facing similar issues in their churches.
We are a small parish church in a densely populated, and very busy part, of West London, where there is nearly always a lot of traffic and nearby shops which are open and trade fast and furiously. We are in an area where the vast majority of the community belong to other faiths.
Our Sunday congregation averages around 30 adults and a dozen or so children. We have a deeply committed core of worshippers with a number on the fringes who attend sporadically. Our worship is engaging, spirit-filled, and includes a variety of music.
I went feeling excited by the prospect of trying something new and different, and which I felt had a lot of promise. I knew that, in order to derive the benefits, the parish would need to engage with it, by the sustained commitment which it would involve.
The first session brought home to me the benefits to taking time out from parish life, to go away and review hopes and plans, and the reality of what is going on. There was such value in doing this with a small committed group, which included the vicar.
The second thing which stood out for me was the value of being with others in a similar situation. The opportunity to learn alongside the people and leaders of other churches was itself a source of encouragement.
To come away with specific plans with action points resulting from the day to be reported on at the next session was just the challenge I had hoped we would have.
What was particularly memorable was – the energy generated in our church team, as we reviewed our situation both within the church and in the community around in which we minister. We felt ourselves wanting to enlarge our vision for the transformation that could happen.
I felt both humbled and inspired listening to the feedback of the plans and actions from the other groups – of what God was doing in their situations.
To me personally – a sense of having contributed to the growth and direction of the church: gratitude that this was possible, and for being asked.
To the church it could be immense. But it will depend on all sorts of factors: the ability to be open to change, to ‘let go and let God’, as well as personal commitment to see the new things come to fruition.
I would say ‘come and see’; make it a priority. There is much encouragement to be gained from their approach of learning and sharing with others. I can’t imagine that you can come away disappointed.