Should We Scrap The Church?

What is the Church good for in 2016? Does it need to be scrapped altogether?

This is the question the United Reformed Church will be exploring at Greenbelt Festival this year and, as a young person who works for the Church, it’s one I find particularly challenging.

I worry that the Church spends too much time thinking about itself. We spend huge amounts of time, energy (and money!) maintaining buildings with small congregations, who are consumed with worries about the roof and the coffee rota, and are consequently unmotivated to do little more than maintain the status quo.

And then we look at Jesus, and find a person who wouldn’t be seen dead in so many of our Churches! He was far more interested in spending time with the most marginalised within society – the unemployed, the asylum seeker and refugee. But more than that, Jesus invites us to question what structures and assumptions are at the root of the worst injustices within society and to challenge the political and economic arrangements that cause people to become marginalised in the first place.

So often, these two visions of Church seem to stand in opposition to each other – our day to day worries about the Church ‘institution’ mean we lose sight of the Church as the ‘ecclesia’ – a body of Christians called out of our regular routines to form a separate community in the public square.

It’s this second understanding of Church that I have time for. In order for Church ‘the institution’ to start to look more like this, I think it has to become less concerned with its own self-preservation and more concerned with the problems faced by the poorest in society - I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s the very same thing that will give us a chance at new life.

Do you have an opinion on whether or not we should Scrap the Church? Join Grace and three other panellists for Cake and Debate in the Youth Venue on Sunday evening 5:45 – 7pm.

Grace Pengelly, 23, is the Secretary for Church and Society at the United Reformed Church. She works as part of an ecumenical policy team that brings together URC, Methodist and Baptist Churches, as well as the Church of Scotland, to campaign on issues including poverty, the environment and migration. Find out more about this work at