Thursday, 22 June 2006
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
Tuesday, 20 June 2006
Monday, 19 June 2006
Friday, 16 June 2006
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.
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
Tuesday, 13 June 2006
Mission Partnership AGM included a great presentation from Marcus about his trip to Chernobyl. Very interesting and challenging."
Monday, 12 June 2006
Thursday, 8 June 2006
Wednesday, 7 June 2006
Tuesday, 6 June 2006
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.
Monday, 5 June 2006
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.