Yesterday, I received an invitation (along with the congregation) to produce an article for a booklet that is being written about LCM. For those spared the tortures of Piskie jargon, that is Local Collaborative Ministry.
Why thank you, said I, only one thing: why us?
I found that I was thrown into an old dilemma. What makes an LCM congregation an LCM congregation? Despite having spoken to all the usual suspects and having read all the relevant documents, I still don’t know.
Is it because in Dunoon and Rothesay clergy and lay people work collaboratively? No, that can’t be it. I can think of many other churches where clergy and lay people work collaboratively, and they are not dubbed LCM. Is it because we are local?? If so, it is the first time I’ve heard anyone from the central belt say that of Cowal and Bute. Is it because both churches have lay worship leaders, a ‘lay ministry team’? Again, no. I would struggle to think of a healthy church that didn’t — though the forms such teams take are manifold.
So is it because the clergy to congregation ratio is 1:3? Is it because sometimes our lay teams lead worship in the absence of a priest? It may be. But if that is what LCM means, then I am all the more wary of being labelled an LCM congregation, for I would not want to imply that ‘no priest’ was a norm we had accepted. It is a situation we cope with. It is occasionally a crisis that spurs growth. But I would not want to encourage it as a long term vision or desired norm.
‘But that’s how it is.’ I can hear you say. ‘There aren’t enough priest to go around, and we couldn’t afford them if there were.’
Well, yes. But that doesn’t mean that’s how it should be.
I have said this before and I will no doubt say it again:
All that stands between where we are now, and where we would need to be for each congregation to gather (priest and laity together) for the eucharist is growth.
More people, more possibilities.
More people, better resources (human and otherwise).
More people, more vocations to ordained ministry.
More people, better funding for ordinand training.
More people, more possibilities to share the gospel.
If LCM is a label used to describe churches who are coping admirably in a less than desirable situation, then so be it. I will take the label up gladly. But if it suggests that ‘people, no priest’ is what we hope for or intend, then the label is not for me thanks.
As for lay involvement… ‘people’ and priest working together?
Well, that is just ‘Church’.
Label enough for me.