Thursday, 31 March 2011

Pension earthquake?

An 'earthquake resistant' building does not mean the building is resistant to structural damage. It  means, however, that the building should survive the initial quake and should not collapse. It may well be found, that after inspections have been completed, several buildings will need to be torn down and rebuilt. Think about a car - we can build a car where you can probably survive a 60 mph crash, but that doesn't mean you can drive that car after the crash.

These were the words I found, somewhere on the internet, when pursuing a train of thought around earthquakes and what this business of 'earthquake resistance' means.

One comment, someone wrote, was "instead of earthquake-resitant buildings, we should develop earthquake-repellant buildings! That would keep the earthquake away and solve the whole problem". Now that's something I hear, unfounded and totally unrealistic, in many a church.

It seems, to me at least, our whole structure is being shaken to the point an increasing number of people are asking 'what is church', 'why invest in the church?' etc.

Within our own Baptist Union the challenges are mounting:

the tide of numerical decline has not yet turned, despite the selective use of figures.
the lack of new new people coming to faith is becoming an ever more serious alarm bell.
the suggestion an increasing number of churches are struggling to afford full-time paid Ministry.
the perceived need for more money as 'the' answer to our problems.
I could go on and you could add others.

One unwelcome addition is the pension crisis. The letters have been hitting letter boxes this week. (so I understand, mine has yet to arrive and we have a Pensions Roadshow in Bristol tomorrow!)

So, the question I feel I need to hear an answer to is 'what is God saying to us?' It will be easy to make a knee jerk reaction. I expect this initially, but if our responses solidify to be simply about money, affordability, maintaining structures, which may need to change, we shall not be in place of perpetual risk (if you live on a fault-line, this must become a way of life), we shall be in a disaster zone.

I am not an engineer, I have a negligible knowledge of earthquakes, I not like glib, but the building of structures, which are 'earthquake resistant' seem to have, at least, three key features about them, to my small brain:

- they are sufficiently flexible to survive seismic shifts.
- they anticipate shaking rather than ignoring the possibilities.
- they do not assume there will be no damage and, once survival has been achieved, have a built in willingness to be realistic about damage and build a more sustainable future again ... and again.

So, let's not panic, but let's listen for the voice of God and then have the guts to respond.

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