We've just had four days in the Bay of Islands, taking with us a couple of special friends.
Happily, after two years, it's not "back home" any more. But it was wonderful to renew contact with old friends and re-visit some of the sights and places that were so much of our lives for a couple of decades. In exchange for our accommodation in the Parish's Totara House, David and I took the Sunday morning service. Although many regulars were absent there was a very respectable number of people of all ages present and we had a stimulating time together.
It was also stimulating to realise that next year the local ministry team concept will have been in place for 25 years. I would guess that probably two dozen or more members have been called to this special ministry team of four to six people at various times over the years.
The parish these days doesn't require any ministry from an ordained person, yet its care for its members and its mission of hospitality continue. A number of people have joined the congregation in recent years.
Of course, nothing remains the same - especially in small, ageing congregations. There is occasionally a little sense of vulnerability as another member family or two find they must move away as we did two years ago. But the passion to maintain ministry and mission within local resources continues. And the ministry strategy is essentially the same as it was when we tentatively embarked on it in June 1992.
At the end of the first year, we produced a video REPORT FROM THE BAY for the Methodist Conference. It explained our motivation and how we moved from dependency on a stipendiary minister to taking responsibility for our own ministry. That video has been all round the world. I have long since lost count of the number of copies we made in response to wide interest. Twenty-five years later, I can't think of anything much in it that I would like to change. The long-term experience of this parish certainly seems to affirm its general principles.