The Place of the Parish by Martin Robinson
A reminder for all of us to understand the nature of the neighbourhood and the essential requirements of the local church to meet it adequately
The Place of the Parish - Imagining Mission in Our Neighbourhood
By Martin Robinson
ISBN: 978 0 334 05825 0
Reviewed by: Martin M’Caw
It goes without saying that evangelistic mission should be top of the agenda in every church. The big issue for Martin Robinson is the nature, style and format for the mission of a church within its locality. That said, it may seem easy peasy. However before any evangelistic action is undertaken significant factors must be taken into account to give local mission relevance within the culture of the local community. Success is not guaranteed but taking Martin Robinson’ points on board gives its impact a greater chance.
The Place of the Parish is neither a simple D.I.Y. manual nor an academic survey of mission down the ages. It is a reminder for all of us to understand the nature of the neighbourhood and the essential requirements of the local church to meet it adequately.
Population movements down the years determine the characteristics of both locale and church. Migration from the countryside to the town in the industrial revolution was significant for rural and urban churches alike: as indeed are contemporary population movements making their contribution to the character of a neighbourhood.
For example, my village in North East Wales was a Welsh speaking mining and tile making community. Over the years those industries have gone as have the Welsh speaking chapels. Incomers are largely English speaking commuters to North East Wales, Chester or the Wirral. It might be a cynical exaggeration to call it ‘little Merseyside beyond the river Dee’ but it makes the point Martin Robinson is making. How can a small church best reach out to the changing nature and values in its village, bearing in mind there are Christians from the village who commute to larger churches elsewhere, and would those larger churches be willing to help?
Church population movements are pertinent. The questions are can a small local church rely on help from a nearby larger church? Is the larger church one to which many of its worshippers commute from their own community, or to which people come because it meets their doctrinal or ecclesiastical needs, thus depriving the local church of their support? Is the big church ready to return its commuters to their local church, or to loan some of its leadership?
Concentration is not only on how small churches can adapt their mission. Whatever the size of a local church The Place of the Parish unfolds a checklist for grasping the nature of the neighbourhood, and being on top of the relevance of missional activity within the local dynamic. It is a book that reminds the experienced and stimulates the beginner: worth every penny.
The Revd Dr Martin M’Caw is a retired Baptist minister, and Wing Chaplain No2 Welsh Wing RAF cadets (retired).