At CCB, we start every church year with our annual church dinner. We really must come up with a more exciting name than that! Was it the Corinthians who called their meals a ‘love feast’? That could work…
Every year it’s a battle to get people there, usually because I’ve been too late in sending out the date! Not this year. This year’s calendar gives the game away! I’ve not booked a venue or thought about what we’ll do. But at least everyone now has teh date in their diary! But every year it proves to be crucial in establishing our priorties and ambitions for the year. We run the year from September to August in three terms. August is deliberately quiet. The only things that happen are Sunday meetings and the prayer meeting. The idea is that everyone gets some rest. September is mopping up time when we gather people back into church and welcome the hordes of newcomers that the Lord brings to us.
The church dinner provides a wonderful opportunity to do three things
1. It’s a wonderful opportunity to strengthen relationships. In one sense the evening is nothing more than a chance to spend some time together enjoying one another’s company. That’s the reason it was moved from a Sunday to a Saturday night. We don’t want people thinking about going back to work and rushing off to get a good night’s sleep. We wanted people to relax, enjoy the meal and have a great time! One of the strengths of local churches like ours is the quality community life that we can offer. Central commuter London churches have to work hard to replicate that. It’s especially a time to welcome newcomers and others who are unfamiliar to us. With two congregations they’re not always the same people!
2. It’s a wonderful opportunity to clarify our priorities. The evening allows us to reflect on what sort of Christians and what sort of church we’re trying to be. And so we spend a few minutes looking at a Bible passage and thinking through its implications for ourselves and our church life. We provide an opportunity to recommit ourselves to the Lord and His concerns. This year we thought about developing an all encompassing vision for life in which we seek the glory of God in whatever we do (1 Corinthians 10:31).
3. It’s a wonderful opportunity to describe the programme. We hand round the church calendars for the year ahead. This usually runs from September to August and highlights all the unusual things that we’ve planned. This year it dawned on me that it was pointless having September because by the time of the dinner it’s already happened! So we started the church calendar in October. But then we need to give people notice of the events in September the following year. And so we now run it from October to September even though the year runs September to August. You with me? Everything clear? Losing the will to live? The reason we concentrate on the various events is not because they’re the most important thing about church. They’re not. But those events express our core commitments. You can tell what a church values by what it commits its resources, time and energy to.
We had a terrific church dinner. It’s just a shame they’re annual!