So here are my immediate thoughts:
- It is clear that a huge number of Anglicans are older, and that what has kept that generation in church has not worked for their children or their grandchildren. Anglicans regularly reminisce about how many children used to be in church through various events, links with uniform organisations and schools. However these models clearly failed in introducing young people to a life long, life changing encounter with the living God. We should ensure that we do not repeat these mistakes.
- With the huge number of older people in the church, there is bound to be a natural shrinkage. A church which sees 5 new families come to faith each year (or a greater number of individuals) may still be classified as 'shrinking' due to older members leaving or moving into residential care. We still need to identify and celebrate this as growth.
- There is not a single missing generation as Norman suggests in passing, but several. The generation which abandoned faith in the 1960's and 1970's is now coming face to face with the reality of their own mortality. The Church needs to be intentional about mission with those coming into retirement, the Boomer generation, as well as the generations that have followed them.
- The evidence of 74% transfer growth to cathedrals is important. It is something I have suspected anecdotally for some time, and speaking as an anglo-catholic drives another nail in the coffin of the choral liturgical tradition in parish churches - we just cannot compete. However over time we may see similar transfer growth within other expressions, as smaller churches cannot compete with the quality of larger worship band lead congregations. It's not pretty but we need to be aware.
- There is growth in the Church of England. We need to support and encourage those lay or ordained who are seeing people find Jesus. This needs to move beyond boundaries of tradition, parish or fresh expression. The whole church lay and ordained needs confidence that God is moving among us in this nation. As a priest I have learned about mission from practitioners, not theorists and 'big name' speakers. The national church needs to embrace this philosophy.
At our recent diocesan conference we were asked what the church needed for the future. I wrote
- Renewal of engagement with the Seven Sacraments
- Prayer on the Streets.
Nothing else will do.