Following The Dream tells the story of a small group of faithful and dedicated people whose huge vision built the Russell Methodist Church and maintained a living congregation for just a few months short of one hundred years. The book was initially inspired by many touching and memorable reminiscences contributed to the Centenary celebrations in April 2012. Sadly, the event coincided with the closing of the congregation which had dwindled to just a couple of members.
Looking at the wealth of material shared in the closing and discovering some remnants of historical records, the authors proceeded to explore the possibility of a printed publication. Dave Mullan sketched out at outline around the different stages of the life of the congregation. David Pratt buried himself in the Methodist Archives in Auckland every Tuesday for several weeks. What came together after a few months is an interesting account of what is known about this congregation.
There are some fascinating anomalies. The title Methodist Church” on the noticeboard always belied the outstanding leadership of people of many other denominations. The fellowship that in 1913 built a church to accommodate a congregation of 100 never grew to more than 27 members in the whole century. The obsessive dream to build their own parsonage and have their own resident minister to themselves was only ever partially realised.
The book asks several questions regarding Russell Methodist Church mission goals. Were they realistic or achievable? What was the role of the national church in relation to Russell’s own ambitions? What is to be learned about future strategy for development of small churches in the future?
The book strongly reflects the convictions of the authors that small churches matter and should be fostered. They may not function in the same way as larger church communities but they have many special characteristics that give them great strengths, especially in small, discrete communities such as Russell.
In assigning titles to various phases to the congregation’s life, such as “The Family Church”, the “Sunday School Church”, authors designated a new label for the congregation that is ageing and able to do only a limited amount of work for itself but deserves to be assisted to continue. So they chracterise the last couple of decades of the congregation as the “Hospice Church”. Afterwards, they noted that a writer in Christian Century used the same term.
A labour of love, the writing and publishing of this little book, together with a publishing grant from the Bay of Islands Uniting Parish, enabled it to be distributed free to all who attended the centennial and closing service. In that spirit, this e-book version is also offered free.
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About the Author
Retired Presbyter of Methodist Church of New Zealand. Passionate pioneer in Local Shared Ministry, consultant in small churches, publisher of over 100 niche market books, producer of prosumer video, deviser of murder mystery dinners and former private pilot. I trained for the Methodist Ministry at Trinity Theological College and eventually completed MA, Dip Ed as well. Bev and I married just before my first appointment in Ngatea where our two children arrived. We went on to Panmure and Taumarunui. Longer terms followed at Dunedin Central Mission and the Theological College. During this time I was also involved as co-founder and second national President of Family Budgeting Services and adviser to the (government) Minister of Social Welfare. My final four years were part-time, developing the first Presbyterian or Methodist Local Shared Ministry unit in this country and promoting the concept overseas. Retirement has brought a whole lot more opportunities and challenges. We are now living in our own villa in Hibiscus Coast Residential Village.
Retired Methodist minister and hospital chaplain, David Pratt's many years of working with older people, their carers and families, convinced him that too few people think ahead and prepare well for their retirement and aging. His own experience of reaching the age of 70, having suffered a serious and unexpected illness at age 65, sharpened his awareness of the issues.