I've been writing up my sabbatical in a brief report this morning for those who need to know - and need it brief. For those who are regular blog readers, I include it here for you:
Brief Summary of Sabbatical Outcomes
This sabbatical ran from May to July 2008 and involved a combination of visits, reading, writing and continuing project work. A more full account is available through my blog www.tim.wvep.org which I can make available in printed form by request.
A. Fresh Expressions
One major theme of the sabbatical surrounded the issue of ‘fresh expressions, emerging Christian communities and pioneer ministry. There were two main outcomes in this area:
1. Fresh Expressions Oversight Group: I continued to attend this group which has produced a set of guidelines for those considering a pioneer ministry appointment, and is also planning a major vision event for deaneries in 2009.
2. Fresh Expressions in Milton Keynes: Following conversations at the MK Local Shared Ministry Project Group, Tim Clapton, Peter Ballantine, Keith Beech-Gruneberg, and I have began working on a plan to encourage and support fresh expressions and pioneer ministry in MK. This will include the following elements:
a. Deanery Planning: Milton Keynes Deanery will launch a new strategic planning process in September. This is likely to involve further thinking about fresh expressions in MK and there is already a commitment to deploy some form of pioneer ministry on the western edge of the city.
b. Vision Day: Tim Clapton is trying to arrange a Vision Day in the autumn which will involve the national team. This will be an ecumenical event and will be supported by MK Development Chaplain funds.
c. Mission Shaped Intro: Tim Norwood and Peter Ballantine will be organising two introductory courses in spring and summer 2009. Scripture Union have already agreed to host one of them. We are also hoping to involve the Bridgebuilder Trust and World Vision.
d. Mission Shaped Ministry: We are aiming to host a year long regional course for ‘practitioners’ which will begin in September 2009.
B. Collaborative Ministry
The second major theme of the sabbatical focussed on collaborative, mutual, total, or local shared ministry. This has taken the majority of the time, but has been very rewarding. I particularly enjoyed a visit with Bev Hollins to Gill Calver in Kent, and to Bristol where I met Alister Palmer and a number of others.
1. Local Shared Ministry Project Group: The LSM group continued to meet throughout my sabbatical. We clarified our vision and spent some time thinking through how the group will support, encourage and develop mutual ministry in Milton Keynes. These thoughts are available in separate documents. Future developments will include:
a. Communities, Companions and Partners: We are hoping to develop a network of communities who are ‘working towards’ Local Shared Ministry. Each community will be supported by a companion who will encourage theological reflection following a ‘mentoring’ model. We are also hoping to establish a network of partners – who are ‘critical friends’ from beyond Milton Keynes who will continue to support, encourage and learn with us as the project develops.
b. Water Eaton: St Frideswide’s is our first active ‘pilot’. Following an abortive attempt to appoint a house-for-duty minister, a proposal was constructed to create an LSM team which would include two retired clergy. The Area Dean (me) will act as incumbent. This will be reviewed in the Autumn and a ‘companion’ will probably be appointed.
c. Communications: We have already set up a web site: www.localsharedministry.org.uk
d. Gathering in MK: I am hoping to gather together some of the people I’ve met during the sabbatical for a mini-gathering at some point in the autumn. Many of the practitioners and theorists that I’ve met often feel isolated and would love to get together. This should be quite an exciting event.
e. Envisioning: A number of people have pointed out that very few parishes are really doing collaborative ministry, but are really engaged in a process of consultation and delegation. If we are to see a major increase in collaboration we need a big push. Beren Hartless and I have begun to think about this more strategically and are hoping to work with the Door to produce a series of articles which focus on a number of necessary ‘shifts’.
f. Introductory Course: The group from Bristol encouraged me to think about how people are nurtured into mutual ministry. In NZ there is an introductory course called AMEND. I’ve been working on a more MK focussed short course which I’ve entitled Touching the Rainbow. The Project Group will be looking at this in September.
2. Conclusions: Having spent three months thinking, I feel there are some key principles that I would like to promote:
a. Collective Leadership: Rolland Allen calls us to “tell it to the church!” Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger speak of “leading as a body”. In a recent email David Robertson pointed out that the key issue in CM is not acting together but making decisions together. I am increasingly convinced that the key to further development of collaborative/mutual/total ministry is a greater emphasis on collective/corporate leadership. This is an area that I intend to put further thought into in the nest few months. (There are various articles about this in my blog.)
b. Withdrawal: Another key Rolland Allen principle is what he calls “retirement” – in other words it is crucial that ‘professional’ ministers take a step back so that people can grow. We need to stop trying to provide churches with what they think they need and begin a more strategic process of ‘space creation’.
c. Supervision: During the past few years I have become increasingly convinced that good quality supervision (following the diocesan model of management, support, education and mediation) is absolutely crucial to the development of people as disciples. Unfortunately this requires a greater time commitment from ‘supervisors’ but this is an area we need to prioritise.
3. Writing: I’ve produced a number of documents which explore this whole area in further detail:
a. Tim’s Blog: There are many entries on www.tim.wvep.org about collaborative/total/mutual/local shared ministry.
b. Touching the Rainbow: A draft four session short course about why collaborative ministry is important.
c. Joining the Rainbow: A fairly substantial “book” (160 pages) which includes my thoughts and reflections about “emerging ministry”.
C. Space to Live and Think
The sabbatical provided me with a considerable amount of time (from my point of view) just to live a bit and reflect on my life and work. The following themes were particularly significant and are explored in more detail in my blog:
2. Ministry in Life
3. Mutual Ministry Methods
4. Plant and Grow
5. Running for Life
6. Collective Leadership
7. Fresh Expressions
8. Local Ministry
9. Blog on
10. What next?
In conclusion, I have both enjoyed the sabbatical and found it extremely valuable. I hope to continue and develop some of the key themes and explore some issues in more detail in future. I am particularly keen to continue to enjoy a bit more ‘balance’ in my working life which I do think is essential for effective ministry.
I would particularly like to thank those who have made the sabbatical possible by giving up their own time and sharing their thoughts with me. I hope I can do them justice.
14th August 2008