Thursday, 22 June 2006

Where's the Minister?

Letter to Church Members...

Where’s the Minister?
It’s sometimes easy to miss significant changes if they creep up on you over a long period of time, but it is really important to note that things have changed in our churches. Five years ago, we had one minister in each church and each minister had a very straight-forward job. This is no longer true and it’s really important that we all know what the consequences of this change are for us and our churches.

Many of you will know that I now hold down a number of different jobs, but you may not know what they are. Here’s a list (in alphabetical order):

- Acting Area Dean of Milton Keynes: In similar areas this is a half time job – with an assistant.
- Minister with Oversight of All Saints’: This used to be done by a very hard working full-time minister.
- Minister with Oversight of St Mary’s: This has been done by one minister working full-time over the last two and a half years.
- Team Chair of the Watling Valley: This job has grown dramatically during the past few years and could easily be a half time job now.
- Plus any other projects and activities that we want to do as a Partnership…

In other words, I am responsible for work that has previously been done by at least three people – in a time when we are trying to expand and develop our work. While I’m not looking for sympathy, I would ask you to realise that I simply can’t do what three people used to do – and remain sane! We are working on a new Job Description that will help us all to agree how things will work, but in the meantime I ask for your patience.

I will prioritise work that I think will help the long-term development of our churches – because this is crucial. I will also expect lay people in the churches to offer mutual care and support to each other – using whatever systems they have available. I will be available for prayer, or a chat, on request – all you have to do is call – I will make time for you. But I will not be able to “pop in while passing” or “keep and eye on people” as ministers used to do. If you want to say “More tea vicar” please get in first before my days get filled in with endless “important” meetings – I would really prefer the cuppa!

Change can seem very threatening and we often want to avoid it, but this is a change that has already happened and we need to take note of what it means.

Many thanks for your support – Tim Norwood

Wednesday, 21 June 2006

Windy Run

3.5 miles in 32mins
Not good run. Lot's of fatigue and head wind.
Used my 45 min lunch break for this and then ate on the move. Probably good to have done it.

Tuesday, 20 June 2006

Deanery Share

Spent some time today working on Deanery Share calculations for the next five years. Needed to do this because I was meeting a coleague this afternoon to talk about their parish. I was pleased to see that his area (which is reletively) deprived will only need to find an extra 5% per year. On the other hand, we will all have to find at least 10% to pay for non-parochial clergy - which may be an issue for some.

Monday, 19 June 2006

Getting There

3.5 miles in 31min 31secs - more like it! Need to keep it up! How long will it take me to get back to the 27min I could do before?

Friday, 16 June 2006

Extended Schools

Went to an extended schools conference today, and spent some time thinking about what churches can contribute to the community. Here are some thoughts...

I believe that churches can offer ""gifts"" in four significant areas:

1. Gift of Infrastructure
Churches can offer community space, e.g. halls and churches. They can also offer formal and informal networks and structures of communication.

2. Gift of Services
Churches can offer groups and activities for particular groups, e.g. children and older people. They also offer explicitely "spiritual" activities within the community.

3. Gift of People
Churches are often significant providers of the people who make things hapen in the community. Church members can also be people who support and encourage community initiatives. Churches need to recognise that they need to support their people in these roles.

4. Gift of Meaning
Churches offer a space or a process for "interpretation" and reflection. They also embody a set of values that gives significance to individuals, families and to the community itself - in a way that the "market" can't.

These are four gifts that the church can give to the wider community. The interesting thing to do, would be to look at the life and work of our communities in the light of these criteria.

Stages of Growth

I have a theory that churches go throught at least three distinct stages of development as they move from a clergy-dominated model to a fully collaborative model.

Stage one, is all about admin. This is usually motivated by the idea that lay people will take on administrative and organisational tasks to ""free the ministers to do what they are called to do"", i.e. pastoral care, teaching and leading worship.

There is a certain ammount of fantasy involved in this, since all tasks involve a certain ammount of admin and paperwork. On the other hand it can result in a broadening of ad-ministry which can enable churches to do things that they couldn't do before. In other words, while it may not achieve the desired results, it can be a very important phase in the development of a church.

The Second stage involves worship. This is often intiated by a reduction in the number of full-time ministers which results in lay people stepping forward to ""fill the gaps"". It is far more challenging than Stage One, since it requires lay people to take on some of the tasks that have usually been reserved for the ""professionals"".

I suspect that this is a very significant stage for many lay people in our churches because of our traditional emphasis on Sunday Church. It can be quite frightenning to loose your Vicar, and it can also feel that whoever stands at the front of the church is replacing him or her.

The third stage is far more challenging because it requires us to think very differently about the nature of church. The focus of this stage is Pastoral Care. It is easy for churches to assume that caring for people is the reserve of professionals, and yet ministers and vicars are quite incapable of meeting all the needs of the individuals in their congregations. The truth is that only mutual care has the potential to achieve what we may long for, and ministers often obscure this fact by taking this role upon themselves.

Of course, many churches may be going through all three stages simultaneously, and some may have very good reasons for dealing with these issues in a very different order, but I would not be suprised if this pattern were repeated in many different churches (at least in the UK) as they tackle some of the issues of our age.

It may be that there is a Stage Four, perhaps involving the integration of different ministries in the formation of a Team. I'll keep my eye out for this too...

Wednesday, 14 June 2006

Another Busy Day

Another busy day. Area Deans Day. They fed us, which was good. Team Meeting in the evening. Got bogged down on a couple of issues, therefore not able to discuss some of the long term issues which would really help!

Tuesday, 13 June 2006

Another Busy Day

Another busy day. Team Space, meeting, pastoral committee, Curiculum committee, Mission Partnership AGM. Didn't stop to eat until 11:00pm. Made pasta and tried to sleep.

Mission Partnership AGM included a great presentation from Marcus about his trip to Chernobyl. Very interesting and challenging."

Monday, 12 June 2006


3.5 miles in 34mins 30secs - walking last mile - better time but poor performance

Would I have run today if I had realised how busy this week was becoming?

Busy Day

Had a busy day today. Lot's of good conversations. Started work on the magazine. Only had one meal...

Thursday, 8 June 2006


3.5 miles in 36min 30secs - better


Decided to get back to running. Have found it difficult because of work, but there's no point working myself to death - can't work then! Will try to run two or three times a week.

3.5 Miles in 38min 30secs - good start

Wednesday, 7 June 2006


I had my first St Mary's Standing Committee today. We discussed the extension plans - a half million pound project that is not showing any sign of happening. We argued that it would be better to let go of this hope in favour of a more afordable option. It was right, I think, to let go, rather than hold on. We may now be free to do something more productive. Does this say something about how God calls us to deal with the challenges of our time?

Tuesday, 6 June 2006

Sheep and Goats

The Parable of the Sheep and Goats (Alternative Version)

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd seperates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep to his right and the goats to his left.

Then he will say to the goats on his left, ""Go to the pit of eternal fire, prepared for those who have failed God. For you were ministers who didn't manage to visit everyone in your church. You took funerals but didn't do enough follow up visits. You didn't notice when someone didn't come to church, or know that there were people sitting at home waiting for you to call. You did many good things, but you didn't meet everyone's needs. So go and receive your punishment.""

And then he will say to the sheep on his right, ""Come and recieve your reward, for you were not ministers, or house group leaders, or pastoral assistants. So you were not expected to do anything for anyone else. Your job was to have a nice life, pay off your mortgage, look after your garden and do a few cross words. You have succeeded in fullfilling this call. Well done. Come and receive the reward set aside for the saints...""

Or perhaps not...

The parable that I've just retold is most definitely not the version you can find in the Bible. In the version that Jesus tells, I am fairly certain that all people are judged in relation to the way they care for the least ""significant"" members of their society. Jesus expects everyone to meet him in the stranger, the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick or the imprisoned. This calling is not just for the ""professionals"".

And yet traditional western church models focus on the ministry of a few, rather than the life of the many. So we generate guilt ridden clergy and apathetic members. I know this is a blatant generalisation, but I suspect there may be some truth in it.

If the Church is to truly fulfil its calling, we need to get away from a model of ministry in which the clergy serve the church and the people support them, to a model in which God works through his people and the ""ministers"" support and resource them. This change is essential! Then through the grace of God sheep and goats together will enter the Kingdom.

Professional Photographers

Professional Photographers
I've just been to the dentist, and spent an interesting fifteen minutes reading magazines. There was an interesting article by a studio photographer who was responding to the rise in use of digital photography and the consequent impact on "professionals". He pointed out that there was a crisis of confidence in the industry, with redundancies, resentment and worry.

He then argued that professional photographers can provide a better service and made his point extremely forcefully. He was particulalrly upset at the tendency to DIY or get a friend to provide informal shots. He then claimed that most people were upset with the result.

As someone who deals with Wedding Photographers a lot, I would say that there are photographers who are 100% diamonds - who can capture the feel of the event, provide really special pictures and manage to do this without becoming the event themselves! On the other hand, there are also many photogrpahers who do just the oposite and leave couples regretting their decision. I was particularly upset at our wedding photographer who did the one thing I had asked him not to do, which was to stop us in the aisle on the way out and hold an impromptue photo shoot. The pictures were frankly poor and he stopped us enjoying the moment - leaving the church as husband and wife.

How many are good, how many poor? I wouldn't like to say. But I do feel that the writer of this article was protesting too loudly about the quality of "professionals". They are, unfortunately, not always that good, and a good quality (perhaps even lucky) amateur shot can often be vastley superiour.

So why am I talking about Wedding Photos in this blog. The issue is, obviously, change.

The photography industry is reelling because a small change in technology has revelutionised and democratised its product. It is becoming more and more difficult for a group of "professionals" to control the production and distribution of images. This has an effect on the economics of photography and therefore also on the way the photographic industry will function in the future.

It's then interesting to see how ther industry responds to this challenge. In the article I read, a professional photographer berates the ammaturs, familes and wedding couples for the decisions they have made. Complains about changes in society and technology that have created this situation and campaigns for people to "come back" to the old style studios where a traditional approach will deliver (or so he claims) what they want - as long as they are prepared to want a traditional style photo.

This is so familiar from a Church context. During the twentieth century, the church experienced massive changes in culture, society and technology that renderred its traditional method of "delivering product" either anachronistic or irrelevant. A more educated and "liberated" society had more access to leisure time, information and mobility. Different forms of communication created new forms of loose community, and so on and so on... (Our "product" had also become quite poor quality compared to what people could get elsewhere...)

The church has had a tendency to respond in a similar way to the Professional Photographer in the article. We complain about the changes in society, attempt to improve our product and call the public to "come back" and rediscover a "tradition" which we expect them to appreciate...

The truth is that it is not the quality of our services, or our advertising that is the problem. It is simply that a different context requires a completely different approach. We need to look deeper...

How should the Wedding Industry repsond?
- Consultancy to those who want to DIY?
- Provide training for how to use digital images?
- Create space for personal creativity (Venture Style)?
- Provide services for camera users?

I'm not sure, but then I'm not working in that industry. On the other hand, I am working with churches and I think a similar question needs to be asked.

What do people today need, to help them in their walk with God?

Monday, 5 June 2006

Deanery Pastoral Committee

Deanery Pastoral Committee
We had a Deanery Pastoral and Standing Committee this evening. On the agenda was the future of ministry at Water Eaton. This is a difficult discussion because St Frideswide is a small church which doesn't really justify a full-time post - financially speaking. Some of the members feel victimised or threatened and that they are being treated badly. Unfortunatley, the reality is that we simply don't have the number of ministers available that we have had in the past. Many of our parishes have already recieved cuts in ministry and there are several churches larger than St Frideswide who are already working with less than half a full-time minister. Of course, it's all relative and churches feel the pain of change.

It's interesting that churches define themselves in relation to certain symbols; their minister, magazine, building, weekly eucharist, area, etc... Take away (or reduce) any of these and they feel that they are no longer a church. This can result in feelings of hurt, failure, or threat. We see this in so many situations. (Service times at St Mary's, Ministry at St Frideswides, Magazine at All Saints', etc...)

I wonder if we would be better off of we defined church in terms of mutual care and support, the breaking open of the word, the worship of God and the service of Christ in the World. If we thought of Church in these terms, it would be impossible to feel threatened in the same way. You can't take these things away!

For me it is so painful when we have these discussions, to feel that I am being criticised for raising the issue of finance and sustainability, or for somehow lacking commitement to mission, faith or ecumenism. I don't see this as an either/or situation. I want to see the Chuch change. I want to see God's people grow - and be active in the World - but I also think that we need to be sensible and responsible in our use of resources. I also think that the "Social Services" / "Chaplaincy" model of Christian Ministry that still lies at the heart of our eclesiatical structures is one of the greatest weaknesses of the church that we've inherited. If we want to see genuine transformation, then we need to find a different model - or set of complimentary models.

Sunday, 4 June 2006

Pentcost 2006
It has been a good, but very busy day. We returned from Iona at 10:00pm last night after the Greenbelt pilgrimage on Iona - which was a good experience, but very challenging.

I was preaching at the joint Pentecost service at St Mary's. The church was packed and I spoke about the church as a community. I compared our (occasional) bad behaviour to that of elephant seals competing for space on a beach. The sermon finished with the suggestion that people might like to join the Generous campaiign. Lots of comments afterwards, so it must have hit a spot...

After a quick bowl of soup, it was out again. Two children blessed at All Saints (Need to produce a new service book for this) followed immediately by Wedding Prep, quick trip to St Lawrence to talk about reordering, kids in bed, then out to my focus group. We discussed the work I enjoy and the work I don't enjoy and agreed that we would all keep a record of the jobs we do over the next month, recording whether they are urgent-non urgent, important - not important, and whether we enjoy them or not...