Blessed are the Alternatives?

Richard Tiplady

At a Cosen conference, years ago, Richard Tiplady suggested that the future of the Kirk depended on the message of artists and prophets rather than pugilistic theologians. Spirit filled creatives and visionary critics may be even more necessary today.

But by their very nature, the nebula of creatives may be hard to find. Inhabiting the fringes, spaced out (pun intended) and loosely connected to the establishment they may shun recruitment campaigns, preferring a ‘bat-sign’.

Yet, to inexcusably mix cultural references and mimic Yoda, find them we must! Because we’ve already tried administration. We’ve been perfecting it for decades! And when the latest re-structuring iterations appear; our new behemothic regional presbyteries, they may save money and perhaps time, but they will not breathe Jesus’ life into our ailing communities. Sadly, to some, presbytery planning and restructuring feel more like the Angel of Death than the life giving Spirit.

Administration is a spiritual gift, gratefully expressed in the Church. But it, alone, cannot make dry bones live. To stretch the metaphor, our new administrative structures may help us to efficiently gather and sort the Kirk’s decimated skeleton. But for new life, we need creative prophecy. We need to release the Word. But we spend more time planning for decline than preparing to preach!

The challenge for a denomination based on an infrastructure of courts and committees is not to associate their rearrangement with fundamental achievement. While pruning and restructuring are necessary, they are provisional. Our new structures may eventually provide a more suitable foundation for the work of the Kirk but they, themselves, are not the work. The work is introducing dry bones to the Word. The work is breathing life into spiritually hypoxic situations.

So where will we find the mangy, locust eating, truth speakers? How do we invite to the table, the paint smudged, callus-handed, wild-hearted, neurodivergent visionaries? Perhaps we don’t need to. Perhaps we just need to open wider the door because Scripture suggests that the Spirit of the Lord is already calling them to speak.

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