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The Cavalry Won't be Coming: A Way Ahead for the Small Church

129 pages1 hour


Dave says, When we used to go to the movies in our childhood we loved to immerse ourselves in the stories of the pioneers of the Wild West. We gasped at their struggles and we wept over their tragedies. We booed the men in black hats for we knew they were the baddies and we cheered on everyone in white hats. We followed all the ups and downs of pioneer life and when it became impossible for them to remain on the land we crowded together in the fort with the beseiged community. We always felt safe when everyone was in the fort.
But, sometimes, the garrison was empty because the cavalry was away on other duties. They might have been called there by some mysterious challenge we didn’t understand. But until they returned we knew our lives still hung by a thread. And how we cheered when right at the last moment we heard the stirring call of the bugle and saw the flag on the horizon and the troopers came galloping back out of the sunset. Now the baddies would be despatched and everything would be fine.
The experience of many small mainline congregations is that the professional ministry which used to shape and secure their existence is no longer available. The fort still stands and the people are in it but the cavalry has left. So the people are waiting for things to return to normal. They can manage their day to day existence but for the big challenges they pray for the cavalry to return and rescue them.
The message of this book is, Sorry, the Cavalry Won’t be Coming. You’re on your own. You have what is needed.
Earlier, in 1990 Dave published Ecclesion, the Small Church with a Vision. This proposed a team of unpaid people working in ministry in small congregations. A year or two later he was involved in the Bay of Islands Uniting Parish which set up the first Local Shared Ministry team in the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches.
Consultancy work in two Presbyteries of the Victorian Synod of the Uniting Church in Australia and even across the border in South Australia created considerable interest in a model for non-Anglican congregations. Many small churches found their mission revitalised as they were assisted to take responsibility for their own mission and ministry.
The concept was also promoted through the Uniting Congregations of Aotearoa-New Zealand and eventually both Methodist and Presbyterian Churches amended their regulations to allow it as a legitimate alternative to stipendiary ministry of ordained people.
Over a ten year period the Bay of Islands Parish was asked to provide 60 videos and kitsets of material explaining the strategy and offering guidelines to making it work. Many of these went overseas as a result of consultancy work done by Dave in England and Wales, Canada, USA and Australia.
This haphazard material had within it the makings of a book but it wasn’t until David U’Ren of the UCA, offered—without qualification—his own detailed work on the background and theology of a lay ministry strategy that The Cavalry Won’t be Coming began to take shape.
Dave says that sharing this account of Local Shared Ministry has been an exciting journey. “The message has rung bells for many people in many countries. Members of small congregations know what needs to be done. They even have a pretty good idea about those who have the gifts that have not been developed. They can see it can be done. This book is designed to help them—and those church authorities responsible for them—on a new journey in a different way of travelling.”

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