Alistair Campbell said ‘we don’t do God’ and John Lennon claimed the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, but research shows that the Church isn’t as out of date as some would like to think. A recent survey revealed a quarter of adults in UK have watched or listened to a religious service since lockdown began and one in 20 have started praying. But the image of the Church today is complex. Views of the Church and religion generally, have been marred by scandals and negative media reports. So what is the image of the Church that continues to draw people in for reassurance and comfort in this time of crisis and uncertainty?
The Vicar of Dibley, the Rev Geraldine Granger, the BBC TV character played by Dawn French, was recently voted as the public’s choice of on-screen priest to lead the UK through the coronavirus crisis. Having been involved in church leadership myself, I wasn’t sure how to take this at first! Although you might think this is a symptom of the desire for light relief and comedy, on reflection I think there are real lessons the Church and Christian organisations can learn from the appeal of Rev. Geraldine Granger.
Most importantly, she is completely and unashamedly herself. With the Vicar of Dibley, what you see is what you get. She doesn’t mince her words and she bucks all the trends of what you’d expect from a local/rural vicar. But that’s why people love her. Because she’s authentic. She’s real. Churches and Christian organisations shouldn’t be trying to be someone they’re not. The way you communicate and present yourself, both directly to the public and through the media, will never be more effective than when it’s real and authentic.
As well as the authenticity of her style, we can also take something from Geraldine’s mission. While emulating her language couldn’t be recommended and you may disagree with some of her life choices and theologies, there is no denying that her heart is for people. Beneath the comic exterior, there is a real love and care for the people in her flock, whether it is Jim Trott stumbling over his words or Alice’s blank look at yet another joke.
It’s so easy to lose sight of the love that is the real reason for ministries and become distracted by making theological points, defending attacks in the media, or simply by the business of the Church calendar. Measuring success by the numbers of people who attend an event or read an article, rather than the individuals themselves.
There are a lots of distractions today, from Meghan Markle’s explosive interview to the latest opinions on Boris’s leadership. While your organisation might be in a place to speak into some of society’s crucial issues, don’t let the wrong things distract you from doing what you do best – and that’s loving people and reaching them with the good news of your kingdom-building activities and campaigns.
So let’s take a leaf out of Geraldine Granger’s book; be authentic and remember the people at the heart of ministry projects. Tell your stories, share the gospel and let the world know that the Church and Christian organisations are alive and well.
Matthew Murray, Account Executive
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