Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Some initial thoughts on 'Transforming Presence'

On the whole I'm very impressed with 'Transforming Presence' and am very excited about the possibilities that are going to open up. I want to say a few things about item 4 in the paper, about ministry - that being a topic which is particularly close to my heart! But first, here is a fuller extract for consideration rather than just the KGH part:

"Here are some basic principles which, with our agreement, could form the basis of a more radical forward thinking look at the ministry of God’s church in our diocese –
> Ministry belongs to the whole people of God. Every person, because of their baptism, has a ministry. We must nurture an expectation that every Christian gives expression to this ministry in their daily life and in their participation in the life of the Church.
> Ordained stipendiary ministers will be thinner on the ground in the future. We need to agree what figure we are working to, communicate that figure effectively to the deaneries, and then give each of them a target to work to. If at the same time we allocate a number of stipendiary posts (say five to ten in each Episcopal Area) as Mission posts, this can give strategic flexibility at a bigger level, allow new initiatives to flourish and ease situations of painful transition.
> These stipendiary priests will need to be more episcopal in the way they understand and express their ministry. This is not new. As the Institution Service reminds us, the Church of England has always believed that the Incumbent in the parish has a share with the bishop in the ministry “which is yours and mine”. Now they will become much more obviously those who have oversight of the ministry of the church in a cluster of rural communities, or in a town or suburb. Their role will be to lead and facilitate ministry in that area, not provide all that ministry themselves. They will, of course, be involved; but their main task will be to animate the ministry of the whole church.
> For this to work, there also needs to be a huge flourishing of authorised lay ministry (especially youth and children’s workers, authorised preachers, catechists, pastors and evangelists) and ordained self-supporting ministry. And of course we already have many Readers. Alongside some priests being more episcopal we need many others who will be more diaconal, taking on a pastoral, catechetical and evangelistic ministry at the local level. Each local church needs to have some sort of ministry team and, preferably, some minister to whom they identify as the worship leader and pastor of that community. Sometimes this will be a lay person, such as a Reader, and we should encourage lay led worship and ministry in many of our churches. In many cases I hope it will be an ordained self-supporting minister, so that the sacramental life of our church continues to flourish. But where there are lay led services of the Word it will still be possible within the cluster of communities under the oversight of the (probably) stipendiary priest, for there to be regular Sunday by Sunday Eucharistic provision. Some SSM priests will themselves be the leaders (‘episcopal’ priests) in these benefices."
"We need an end to that debilitating and depressing approach to ministry where it feels like an endless game of knock out whist: every time the cards are dealt there is one less. We must transcend this situation, by looking slightly further ahead and developing a bold ministry plan that is based on sustainability and growth. We must stop spreading diminishing resources more thinly. This has been a disaster for clergy morale and a massive disincentive to giving."

Initial overlapping questions and thoughts:
1. There is a lot of practical thinking about models of ministry to be done putting flesh on the bones of this vision.
2. This must be shared with the laity as it is principally their expectations which will not be met.
3. Knowing where we will likely be in fifteen years time (in terms of clergy numbers) would be a great help, and would allow us to actively work towards a particular outcome.
4. Nothing has been said here about what incumbents will be expected to do vis-a-vis fabric questions, including church yard management and so on. I would want to see this brought out into the open with a view to passing these on to church wardens.
5. Are incumbents meant to be managers, pastors or missioners? Or all three?
6. If the role of the incumbent is to 'animate the ministry of the whole church' then the focus for allocating those resources must surely be the size of the congregations (ignoring specified mission priests who are supplementary) not the size of the population within which a particular church is placed. (This is a particular grouse of mine)
7. I don't think that we can push effectively in this direction unless we also tackle the question of parish share and accept a different model.
8. We need to have a good hard look at the occasional offices and clarify what is expected and who is going to do that ministry.
9. How we train the ordained is going to have to change to fit with the answers discerned to all of the above.

I'm sure there will be other thoughts as time goes on, but at the moment my strongest sense is one of relief. I feel that I have been banging my head against a door that has been firmly closed against me for many years, and suddenly it has swung open. Thanks be to God.

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