Talk at the LSM Conference

At the 2013 LSM Conference I shared a TED talk by Amanda Bennet. The motivation for sharing this talk was to prompt thinking and exploration of aspects of a vexed kind of discernment: when it is that we should work heroically for ongoing life in church communities that appear to be dying, and when we accept that the process of saying ‘Goodbye’ is the work to be done. Both pieces of work require the deepest levels of faith and hope from us in ministry.

It is my view that this discernment work requires wisdom and skills that we do not currently have easily to hand. The acquisition of this wisdom and skill will likely emerge through the wisest kinds of prayer, study, and conversation – sometimes from unlikely sources.

Here is the link to the talk:



  1. I was really helped and challenged during my PhD research by a thesis by Della Fahnestock, advocating that congregations facing apparently inevitable terminal decline should produce ‘living wills”. Rather than waiting until the last matriarch’s funeral, perhaps congregations could agree that when their regular attendance dropped below, say, 10, or when there were fewer than 5 to serve on the church committee, or whatever measure they chose, then THEY would approach the diocese and request that steps be made to bring that ministry to a graceful end. This wouldbe much preferable to having the diocese or the bishop initiating such a process, and also preferable to hoping that various inventive and artificial means be found to keep the congregation “alive”.
    It might not work in every situation, but it’s an interesting thought.

    .Fahnestock, Della M. “Living wills for congregations. A new approach to church life transitions.” Lancaster Theological Seminary, 2008.

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