Richard Hall has some good words to say about the Methodist circuit system. I especially like the way he amends the ‘strong helping the weak’ value to the one of gaining a wider perspective. Like him, if we were to get local pastors (and other leaders – see the previous Wineskins post) in each church, I would still keep something like the circuit system as part of that sense of apostolic connectedness. However, Richard’s post admits that the circuit system was not originally set up with ordained leaders in mind. It was a supplementary support in the Evangelical Revival, and as I argued before, Methodism hasn’t really grasped that nettle.
Another problem we face is alluded to by comment #1 on the post, by Olive Morgan. She laments the lack of support for circuit events. I suggest this is a combination of at least two factors. Firstly, younger church activists often operate in a post-denominational fashion, looking for the right church for them and their loved ones (and that isn’t always consumerist, although it can be). They are thus less attached to the denominational structures. Combined with this, the generations which were more denominationally loyal are getting older. (Olive Morgan openly admits on the blog strap line that she is an octogenarian.) Many are now of the age where they don’t like to go out at night. Maintaining a sense of connectedness happens less in the Methodist structures now and more in local cross-church co-operation. I believe we should lament inward-looking congregationalism and celebrate the connections where they happen. The circuit doesn’t need to be the provider of all connectedness, but it can be the cheerleader for all that happens.