Sunday, 30 November 2008

All Saints MK Village

I had taken this Sunday off as an attempt to use up my holiday provision... It sort of worked but two of the girls are still ill so a trip away was definitely out of the question....
I went to All Saints' MK Village and enjoyed one of Mike's hymns. I also got a sneaky peak at the report that's being presented at their LEP council on Tuesday. This looked interesting and mentioned four key points for development: Mutual Ministry, Fresh Expressions, Communications and LEP decision-making. It will be interesting to hear where this goes to...

In the meantime I had a comment on my Blog entry "What is Local Shared Ministry?" which contains some of the text of one of our draft LSM "principals" document. This entry has attracted quite a bit of interest so it may be worth finishing off...

Saturday, 29 November 2008

A Day with Bishop John

Once a year, the Bishop of Oxford gathers all the Lay Chairs and Area Deans together for a day together. This was the second such day with Bishop John down in Geralds Cross.

Bishop John spent the morning discussing his new vision document with us - now rechristened Living Faith after the influential evangelism vision day organised in the summer.

The key to this vision is that it must not be seen as a list of things to do, but a helpful tool for deaneries and parishes as they work out their own strategic plans and priorities. John spoke about the need to paint different pictures using a common pallet of primary colours. Each setting will generate a different creativity - based on the same key themes.

These are:
  • Sustaining the Sacred Centre
  • Making Disciples
  • Making a Difference in the World
  • Creating Vibrant Christian Communities
  • Shaping Confident Collaborative Leadership
In our small group we discussed how this might be reflected in a process:
  1. Reflect on how existing practices can be mapped onto the five themes
  2. Consider what could be done to develop work in each of the five key themes
In other words, the Bishop's vision could (and probably should) be used as helpful input for an ongoing visionary/strategic process rather than be seen as another job or programme to be introduced. If deaneries and parishes are already in a planning cycle then this vision will probably be helpful. If not, then they should concentrate on developing some change muscles rather than simply try to keep the bishop happy.

In the afternoon we discussed women bishops and the troubles of the Anglican communion. There was encouragement from the floor for patience and time to listen to all view points...

Bishop Stephen put forward his new scheme. This is an idea to develop a system for Mystery Worshippers in a Deanery. Apparently he's done it before with some interesting results. The basic idea is that each church agrees to send out church members to visit as many of the other churches in the deanery as possible. At the end of the year the results are collated and churches are given feedback about how a random visitor found the experience...

This sounds like a great idea and could be really valuable. As Stephen points out, visitors remember:
  1. the welcome they receive
  2. the quality of the music
  3. and whether the sermon is OK or boring
These are all things that churches can work on and could do with feedback on. Deaneries have been asked to say if they would like to take part in a pilot. I think MK Deanery should go for it!

All in all this was a good day. Nothing life changing, but worth doing. In a busy life with people spread out over three counties, it's very good for people to get together from time to time - even if it's only a few of us... There were comments about another diocesan (or archdeaconry) conference, so perhaps we might do this on a bigger scale in 2010...

Any more Survivors?

Survivors: Episode 2
In episode 2 those who have survived the plague must now work out how they will function as a community.

The former convict and escaped murderer, Tom, is convinced that he knows how to cope with the new world. The basic truth for him is that each person will do whatever they need to do in order to live. Violence is inevitable - it's a dog eat dog world.

This argument is illustrated in episode two as the group encounter Dexter's gang who seem willing to kill in order to protect their turf. This gang are attempting to control abandoned shops and keep all the available resources for themselves. They are young, aggressive and armed...

Abby Grant, on the other hand, argues that they need each other. It is only groups who will have the collective abilities and skills to survive in what will become an increasingly hostile world.

The episode raises the question of illness or accidents. What will happen to people who have relatively minor injuries? Without the right medicines or treatments they will probably die... This question is made more pointed by the fact that they have a doctor in the group who wants to keep her previous career a secret.

Greg is somewhere in between. He has some mysterious things that he wants to do, but has accepted Abby's argument that they need each other.

But this is not just a matter of teamwork. There is a need to build a new "social contract" since the old order has collapsed.

In this episode we meet Bob, a former shop manager, who has hooked up with Sarah, a former customer. Between them they have created their own "social contract". Bob works for Sarah in return for certain favours... This contract is fine but soon breaks down when Bob is injured and Sarah identifies a better offer...

Greg goes missing (having met up with Bob and Sarah). Abby is determined to go looking for him but Tom can't see the point. In the end they both find their way to a warehouse, where, by putting their lives on the line, Greg and Tom are able to win a significant stand off against Dexter and his gang. This reinforces the unity of the group and helps them to understand why they need each other. Dexter only had one bullet - while they had two big blokes willing to even the score...

The point of this episode is that communities only function on the basis of trust. No business or communal arrangement can work unless people guarantee to act in certain ways. People need to treat each other with respect, honour their commitments and even put others first - without such a "social contract" the dog eat dog rules of the jungle will result in rapid mutual destruction...

As I said before, I don't think Survivors is a programme about disease or even survival but about society. In an era or fear and uncertainty "empty earth" scenarios give writers an opportunity to explore the key issues of human society. As we face the credit crunch, peak oil and global warming we need to work out what sort of new world we should be building. Survivors reminds us that this new world needs a new social contract based on mutual respect, commitment and self-giving. Trust is more powerful than fear.

From a Christian perspective this is something that should not be ignored. Secular society has indicated that it wants to put issues of "faith" to one side. "Faith communities" can do their own thing, to a certain extent, but must contribute to society within certain narrow paramaters. The problem is that the main contribution that "faith" (or trust?) can bring is that it provides core values and a world view around which communities can be built. Can a materialistic society generate suficient shared values to achieve this? Can communities founded on trust in God find ways to build trusting relationships within the society in which they are set? It will be interesting to see if this issue comes up in the series...

As an extra note, I've heard that the Triffids are going to make a comeback. This was, of course, a classic "empty earth" story which will be good to revisit again without those pesky zombies...

More Apparitions

As you may know I've been following the BBC series apparitions. As I suspected the series is dealing with "the problem of evil" in a fairly significant way.

In episode two we were asked to consider how people respond to evil and we were given the example of the holocaust in Nazi Germany. Some people run away, some refuse to believe that it was real, others attempt to do a deal with evil. In episode two we discover that the chief exorsist himself was a jewish concentration camp prisoner who did a deal with the devil to win his own freedom. By doing so he becomes a "colaborator" - by the chief of demons he is able to cast out demons... Only by confromting the truth and acknowledging his own sins is Father Jacob able to deal with evil... 

In episode three the plot thickens as we are presented with the possibility that a saint may be possesing a rapist. This raises all sorts of questions about free will...

The issue of how we deal with evil is still high on the agenda. In this episode some people decide to give up on God, while others are encouraged to hang onto their faith. Father Jacob continues to present an intriguing character, simultaneously acknowledging the fleshiness of human existance, while persuing holiness...

All fascinating stuff.

Friday, 28 November 2008


INSET Day for Christ the Sower...
Iona and Isla spent day on sofa...
Took Izzy into town to see the decorations, post presents to New Zealand, etc...
Iona throws up...

Plans for weekend changing rapidly...

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Two down...

Isla at home ill...
Did shoping...
Met Alison for coffee...
Popped in to the Newboult's house to discuss Barry's funeral....
Took girls to ballett and cubs...
Iona looking ill...

Wednesday, 26 November 2008


Complicated day...
Had to take car into Bletchley for MOT...
Walked back to Westcroft...
Garage phoned to say they couldn't open the car door...
Managed to talk them through getting in...
Lunch with Karen (our Archdeacon) and Paul (our Lay Chair)...
Visit to Woughton Rectory...
Isla sent home ill...

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Another Bad Day...

Izzy at home...
Cancelled my plans...
As soon as Isla and Iona came home I went round to Ron and family to discuss Joy's funeral.
WVEC in the evening. We discussed money...

Monday, 24 November 2008

Bad Day

Bad Day... say no more...
Finished the evening with Izzy puking...

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Any survivors?

This evening I sat up with Isla and we watched the first episopde of Survivors, the remake of the sevinties drama by Terry Nation. This drama tells the story of a group of people who survive a rapid and near universal plague that wipes out most of the world's population.

This episode predictably focussed on the arival of the plague and the death of most of the UK population. It began with some fairly obvious links to a genuinely possible flu pandemic which had clearly been picked up from the various documents that have been produced about this. Fairly soon society was in collapse and the end 
was in sight. The lights went off and when the sun rose again there was no-one left.

It's interesting to see this apocalyptic vision resurface after 30 years. Last time there were a whole stream of "empty earth" scenarios inspired by nuclear war or scientific disaster. Even then there was a sense that mother earth might kick back against human foolishness and kill us off before we cause too much

During the past decade or so we have had alien invasions (fear of the stranger) and tecno-thrillers (fear of our own ignorance) but very few genuine "empty earth" stories. The clossest thing to them have been zombie stories in which most of the population are reduced to mindless consumers who will do anything to satisfy their own urges...

Perhaps now that the consumerist society is teatering on the brink of collapse it may be time to revisit the "empty earth" scenario again. What is the purpose of human beings? What holds society together? Why do we need each other? What are we if we are not consumers - or on the run from agressive consumption?

These are genuinely interesting questions to ask - but where will Survivors go with them? The first episode was appropriately meladramatic with lots of death and loss. Otherwise it was, unfortunatley, a bit dull - and killing of Martha Jones after the first twenty minutes will have disapointed a few fans. Perhaps the most interesting moment was the final thrity seconds when, in true Lost style, we were given a brief hint that all may not be quite as straightforward as it first appears with the introduction of the mysterious lab... Will this be any good? Who knows - but I suspect it won't be the last "empty earth" that the media visits over the next few years...


This was my first attempt to book a final weekend off in 2008. It didn't work because I didn't remember this fact when I said yes to an evensong at St Giles...

Even so, I managed a gentler Sunday than normal which included a quiet morning with the family and walk in the rain with Dave and James up to the North Bucks Way and back...

There were a few phone calls which I had to deal with and then evensong - at which I preached about Zechariah. It was the last evensong of the year so became an opportunity to round off their season on the prphets with an overview and a conclussion...

At the end of the day, I do feel a bit better, but still fragile and tired. After three tough weeks I'm ready for some serious therapy - but another tough week at work will have to do...

...and Doctor Who is 45 today.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Beaver Walk

The Beavers walked from Wolverton scout hut to the Quarries scout camp - via Old Stratford. Isla went along to help out.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Common Advice

I took part in a workshop as part of a Common Purpose Matrix day. The aim of the workshop was to give participants an opportunity to learn as they explored a particular challenge related to change.

I presented them with the situation in the deanery and explained to them in detail our issues with money. The great thing about this challenge was that it resembled the kind of costs vs. income debates that many organisations have - but placed it in an unfamiliar context.

The discussion was really interesting and they came to some familiar conclusions:

The group decided that the mission of the Church should take priority as the overarching principle. Costs were recognised as a hard thing to change, but they recommended that we focus on:
  1. increasing congregation size
  2. increasing individual contributions
  3. looking for ways to tap external funds
In order to achieve these objectives, they recommended that we look at leadership:

Education and communications are crucial, they argued, because congregations will give more if they realise that there is a need. They also suggested that there needs to be greater levels of accountability for local ministers...

One of their strongest recommendations focussed on the need to spread good practice between the churches of the deanery so that struggling churches would learn from those who are doing better. One interesting idea was to encourage secondments - allowing clergy from different churches to spend time in different parishes - picking up good ideas or merely getting a bit of refreshment...

It was a great day and well worth taking part in. So thank you to the group members - if they're reading this...

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Christ the Sower Day

I spent the morning with Christ the Sower year 2 giving them a tour of St Mary's Shenley Church End.
I popped into New Life North for a ministers lunch (briefly) and then went back to Christ the Sower to be interviewed by Sycamore Class - and stayed around till the end of the day to pick up my own children....
This evening I go back to Christ the Sower for the Governors meeting...
One of the teachers complained that they don't see as much of me these days...

Monday, 17 November 2008

Deanery Pastoral Committee

We met at Christ the Vine in the rain but couldn't get in. We moved the meeting to Servant King where we were accompanied by ballroom dancers...
What a night!

Happy Birthday

It's exactly one year since this blog got going. I had published a few blogs before but Tim's Blog really began on the 17th November 2007. It began with a very simple post listing my schedule on a busy Saturday. Since then there have been 528 entries which have been viewed by nearly 8,000 people.

This has been an exciting project for me and I have really enjoyed participating in the online community. Thank you all for making it worthwhile!

If I have time later on today, I may post a list of my favorite entries.

Sunday, 16 November 2008


I seem to have spent a lot of time recently, encouraging people not to do too much! Burning the candle at both ends will inevitably result in burnt fingers!

Having said that - I'm just as bad myself. On Saturday, I had the Vision Day (with a wedding during the lunch break) and on Sunday, two services, a baptism and then the confirmation...

This week doesn't look much better. I will keep telling other people to slow down - and try to listen to my own message!

Ecumenical Confirmation

This evening I attended the ecumenical confirmation service at the Water Eaton Church Centre.

We didn't have any candidates from Watling Valley, but I was there to support Emma from St Mary's Bletchley.

Mary Cotes couldn't make it, but Geoff Colmer, who was down to preach anyway, stepped in to led the service.

Other highlights of the evening included Peter Ballantine's first baptism by immersion and Brenda Mosedale's first appearance at the front as Methodist confirming minister.

The church was packed! - and the Water Eaton people did a fine job offering welcome to such a huge group of people. All in all, a good evening!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Vision Day

Today was the day of our Fresh Expressions Vision Day. It was a great event with lots of energy and engagement. Philip Roderick and Ruth Poch came out from the national team and delivered the main talks. A number of local people shared their stories and led seminars. It was a great day!

Although this was a good event, we've always been conscious that this should lead to something else. My hope is that this will be a launch event for a whole network of practitioners and enthusiasts across the city and that it will lead to further creativity and experimentation.

From the Project Group point of view, our sights are already fixed on the Mission Shaped Intro course in January...

James and Victoria

James and Victoria were married at St Mary's today. This was a fun wedding for me to take since I had to do it during my "lunch break" from the Fresh Expressions Vision Day...

I particularly enjoyed singing "Morning has broken" at 12:30pm. In the context of an afternoon wedding this hymn took on whole new meaning as a celebration of marriage as a new dawn. We also read 1 Corinthians 13 and I had a real sense of the mystery in Paul's well known words about love, faith and hope. In my address I spoke about the mystery and grace that surrounds the moment of marriage.

Congratulations to Victoria and James and best wishes to you both for the future!

Thursday, 13 November 2008


I managed to finish work by 9:00pm so had a chance to watch the first episode of the new BBC exo-thriller Apparitions. This is a six part series with Martin Shaw as the exorcist, Father Jacob, waging war on demons. It's a bit like a British version of the Exorcist but really looks, and feels, like a sequal to channel four's vampire drama Ultraviolet...

As a piece of drama it's quite well made and will probably draw me in for episode 2. It's appropriately grim and dark with some real moments of evil - as you would expect.

The key issue for me is whether its fairly uncritical embrace of catholic "mythology" will work in a post-modern context. It might have been more interesting to mix catholic and pentecostal concepts of evil and exorcism, but perhaps this is an issue for future programmes... So far this is an old-world look on evil with fairly limited references to the majority world - via Mother Theresa - who was born in Europe...

Kevin Smith played with his own catholic tradition in Dogma - in which a couple of angels attempted to use a loophole created by the institutional church in order to get back into heaven. This produced an entertaining romp which dealt obliquely with issues of truth, authority and faith. Apparitions is more serious but has its own agenda. So far it has hinted at issues of homosexulity, child protection and faith. Failrly high on the agenda is the clash between secular materialism (both within and beyond the church) and the unseen world which has to be experienced in order to be believed...

This is an inteligent piece of television and it does acknowledge the reality that many religious people are quick to see the influence of demons when the real source of evil may be illness, pschological difficulties, or institutional violence. The message of Father Jacob seems to be, if in doubt, say a prayer. As you enter consciously into a spiritual domain you'll find out what the problem really is. Which isn't a bad message to take on board...

It will be interesting as the show develops to see how it deals with some of the issues it has so far only hinted at: faith, reality, secularism, materialism, multi-cuturalism, plurality, atthiesm, power, hierarchy, etc... This was only episode one. The scene is set. What will happen next?

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Fresh Expressions and Church Leavers

On the third and final day of the Local Ministry Consultation Stuart Murray Williams spoke to us about church leavers and emerging churches and what these phenomena may tell us about the Church.

Through interviews and questionnaires, church leavers tell us that they are leaving church because they long for a more authentic expression of Christian faith and community. Emerging churches are experiments in creating the possibility and space for change.

The future of the Church will be complex but it must both respond to the message of those who are leaving and reflect the hope of those who experimenting...

And then, of course, there's reality - which is always somewhere in between...

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Post-Christendom and Local Ministry

Today we were treated to a session with Stuart Murray Williams who gave us his session on Post-Christendom. This is the idea that the place of Christianity is slowly changing in western culture as it ceases to be an "imperial religion" and is transformed into a marginal movement.

I've heard this talk before, but it was good to hear it again in the context of local ministry. Many people agreed with his analysis and were quite excited about the implications this has for church...

Here are my brief thoughts on what post Christendom may mean for local ministry:

1. It will be about knowing Jesus rather than claiming authority. Local churches will not be able to claim any special status or a right to speak out on any issues - but they will need to think about how a relationship with Jesus can affect their lives. Knowing Jesus will inspire them to act and speak in ways that they won't be able to by themselves.

2. It will require churches to be theologians rather than passive recipients of ministry or ideas. The ability to reflect theologically at local level will enable church members to offer meaning to their networks and neighbourhoods. They need to become theologians so that they don't fall into the trap of becoming dependent clubs gathered together against an apparently alien society.

3. They will need to seek peace rather than security. Rather than hide behind walls trying to protect their own interests they will need to follow the example of the Judean exiles and seek the peace/shalom/wholeness of the communities in which they are resident aliens.

4. They will need to develop relational networks rather than formal communications. Mutual support will be more significant that hierarchies of control.

5. They must value marginal voices since God often speaks through those who are apparently on the edge. It will be tempting to seek safe and comfortable standards, but God calls us to embrace the eccentric, the difficult and the down-right odd. Local Ministry Teams will need to excel at including those who are challenging or different.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Local Ministry

I'm at the Local Ministry Conference in High Leigh where a variety of people have gathered from across the Anglican provinces of Britain. It's an interesting group which includes diocesan officers, local ministers - and one archdeacon.

Like most conferences, the interesting bits happen between the sessions and I was particularly interested to meet someone from Liverpool who had already read this blog. The wonders of the internet!

The first key note speaker was Ann Morisy who has been giving us a series of session which addressed issues relating to mission and the Church. She described the way that the Church functions in three domains: the foundational, the explicit and the vocational.

The explicit domain relates to the visible church and the way that this expression is managed. Although she was clear that this is an aspect of church which she loves, she also questioned the amount of time and resource that we give to it.

The foundational domain relates to the basic experience of human beings on the very edge of faith. This is where we relate to those who have no eplicit theology or belief and may encounter the divine but struggle to articulate the experience. The role of the church in this domain is not to impose its own understanding but to acompany and encourage those who are feeling the first stirings of an understanding that there is something other... In this domain, she suggested, chaplains have traditionally walked...

She discussed the concept of "church centres" where churches make their fascilities open to the community as a resource. She suggested that this "gift" has not always been helpful since there is often no attempt to build relationships or create meaning. To counter this she suggested that we explore the concept of "community chaplains" - trained volunteers who would spend time making links and befriending the groups who use "church centres". This seems a good idea. I did ask and no-one had produced any training, so this idea would need quite a bit of work... It's not a bad one though and may be worth looking at in MK. We have a variety of "community centre" churches which generate frustration, disapointment and can be a drain on resources. It strikes me that the concept of Community Chaplains could turn these places into potential community hubs...

The third domain is the vocational. This is the aspect of our life where individuals experience the discomfort of "should I? could I?" in response to need and possibility. Ann wasn't sure this had anything to do with Local Ministry but I suspect it does - local churches should be places where disciples are nurtured and groups of people challenge each other to have a go...

She also talked about communal anxiety, power, status and control - and so on... She's a great speaker and gave everyone a great deal to think about...

Beyond the talks this conference has given me an opportunity to ask some questions and find out what's going on around the CofE. It's a mixed picture... One of the questions I've been keen to ask has been about "commisioning" services for local ministry teams. There seem to be a huge variety of patterns and few commonalities. Even the names used vary dramatically! From an MK point of view, I increasingly think that we will have to create our own...

In the evening I was asked to talk about Water Eaton. It was interesting to get some feedback from proper experts which both confirmed some of my thoughts and raised some important questions.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Holy Cross

Last week we had an incident with a tree at St Mary's. This week it was gas pipes at Holy Cross. Apparently a car hit the gas supply. No-one was hurt but the church needed to be evacuated and the service was cancelled.

It's all sorted now, but we should be thankful for all those who responded so quickly, and helped make the building safe again. In the meantime, please pray for those involved.

Ten "Bridesmaids"

Today's Gospel reading was the story of the ten bridesmaids / young women / virgins (depending on your translation). This is perhaps an unlikely reading for remembrance Sunday so I suspect many churches went for something else.

I was at a group in the week at which the reading was discussed. Our conversation focussed on the apparent injustice and competitiveness reflected in the story. Most people felt sympathy for the "foolish" bridesmaids who had run out of oil - and suspected the motives of the "wise" who were unwilling to share. One person even suggested that that the bridegroom intended to choose one of the ten to be his bride. If this were true, the story would become a kind of first-century X-factor ("Jerusalem's got Talent") in which the bridesmaids were competing to win a life of domestic bliss/servitude (delete as appropriate). It would be in each bridesmaid's interest to get the others "evicted" and the winner would be the one left standing at the end...

While these reflections are great fun, I suspect this is really a story about waiting - and what you do while you're waiting.

If you're an actor you learn your lines while you wait for the play to start. If you're a sportsman you exercise. A marathon runner wouldn't get very far if he spent his time on a sofa watching TV. Waiting is not a passive activity, but something that you do as you prepare for the thing you long for.

In this parable the bridesmaids had the duty of lighting the way so that the bridegroom would know where to come - and could arrive with an appropriate greeting. The Bridesmaids therefore needed to keep their lamps burning so that the bridegroom would be able to see his way. If they had shared their oil this would have been unwise - since the lamps would have run out more quickly. The bridesmaids had a job to do and the "wise" bridesmaids made sure they were able to do it.

Today is the 90th anniversary of the end of the Great War.
Wars and conflicts are still taking place today.
What are we waiting for?

If we are waiting for peace, then the question is how?
Are we waiting passively - hoping that things will be all right?
Have we given up waiting and gone off to do something else?
Are we waiting "unwisely" allowing resources to be burned up because we don't want to share them?

Or are we waiting actively?
- preparing for peace rather than gearing up for war
- building relationships rather than nurturing suspicion
- reaching out rather than building walls

Today is the 90th year during which we have stood and remembered.
It will not be the last -
What are we waiting for?

(The painting above is by James B. Janknegt. See for more of his work)

Saturday, 8 November 2008


We're all feeling the effects of cold. As a result Iona didn't run in the school's cross country today - although Isla found herself acting as a steward. Apparently the route was only 1.5 K - half the distance we practised on Thursday - so I think Iona has actually done quite well!

Had a great evening with Katherine and Harry - courtesy of a takeaway from the Grange. It was pretty good!

Friday, 7 November 2008

Christmas is here!

Friday is my day off so we popped into town for the morning. We sat in M&S (contemplating the 34.1% profit slump) and the effects of recession. From our point of view this seemed to mean that the coffee shop was quieter than usual and the coffee was actually hotter...

We made a list of essential Christmas present targets and then went hunting... By the end of the morning we had managed to find most of the necessary gifts for family and friends... Not bad for the 7th November!

This was also the first day of the Christmas displays in Midddleton Hall. We popped along to check that the nativity scene was on view. It was, so there won't be any complaints in the Citizen this year...

This years displays include twelve foot mushrooms, fairies, a train, a heltascelter and a tree with mirrors in it. We estimate that a family of four would bankrupt a minor high-street bank if they tried to do everything...

Merry Christmas one and all!

Thursday, 6 November 2008

What is Local Shared Ministry?

This is a draft of a document the LSM group have been working on. I thought regular blog readers might like a look - and are more than welcome to comment...

Local Shared Ministry in Milton Keynes

What is Local Shared Ministry?

Local Shared Ministry (LSM) is an approach to ministry characterised by three main features:

Local: The emphasis is on the ministry of local Christians who are called, trained, authorised and supported to serve God in their local church and community.

Shared: Lay and ordained Christians share their calling, training, leadership and ministry within mutually supportive teams.

Enabled: Local teams and churches are supported, trained, guided and equipped by the wider church.

Local Shared Ministry (sometimes called Mutual Ministry or Total Ministry) emphasises the importance of locally derived ministry – with the wider church providing support, training and authorisation. In places where it has been developed (including New Zealand and the US) it has often been used in situations where small churches were unable to pay, or attract, a full-time minister. Others have been keen to explore it because it gave them an approach to ministry which they found theologically attractive.

In Auckland Diocese churches are offered the possibility whenever there is a vacancy. Once a church has expressed an interest there is a process of discernment, reflection, training and authorisation which leads to the establishment of a local licensed ministry team which includes lay and ordained people with a variety of different roles. A Ministry Enabler is appointed (quarter time) to support this team in their ongoing development. The church is therefore only expected to pay a quarter of a stipend.

The concept of Local Shared Ministry has a certain attraction in Milton Keynes because we face a situation in which we have rapidly expanding populations, rapidly rising share payments, small churches and a declining number of full-time clergy. It has the potential to be a significant tool in both maintenance and mission and may be invaluable for our mission in newer areas.

In Milton Keynes we are developing our own approach to Local Shared Ministry which is very different from that taken elsewhere.

1. Ecumenical: We’re committed to working ecumenically. This is a very challenging commitment since it means we need to work with a number of different denominational systems, ecclesiologies and patterns of ministry.

2. Organic Development: In some places there is a ‘master plan’ which includes a commitment to Local Shared Ministry. In Milton Keynes, we have agreed that there will be no ‘one size fits all’ master plan for the churches in the city. We would rather encourage bottom-up development within appropriate structures – and this includes the development of LSM.

3. Project Group: We have set up an ecumenical project group to encourage and support the development of Local Shared Ministry across Milton Keynes. This group is keen to concentrate on reflection and discernment rather than definition and control.

4. Communities: We are concentrating on ‘communities’ who are working towards Local Shared Ministry. These communities may be churches, congregations, partnerships, parishes, fresh expressions or missionary groups. We want to encourage and support these communities as they develop.

5. Supervisors and Companions: In New Zealand the denominations deploy ¼ time Ministry Enablers to support, supervise, train and equip local churches. This is a good way of dealing with congregations which are spread out over a wide area but in Milton Keynes the distances are much smaller and people can pop from place to place more easily. We are therefore able to think differently and have decided to appoint ‘companions’ and ‘supervisors’ while also encouraging the use of paid ministry in more creative ways.

Local Shared Ministry is:

A Dream: It’s a vision for how the Church might be.

A Way of Doing Church: It’s a way of thinking about Church and ministry in a different way.

A Framework: It’s a set of tools, processes and structures which are there to encourage and support the vision. See the diagram below.

A Journey: It’s a continuing process of walking with God and one another as we explore his call and his mission.

Who are the ministers?

The most common model for churches in the western world is for there to be a single minister or leadership team. These people are the ‘leaders’ or ‘ministers’. Local Shared Ministry is not about setting up a team to support or share ministry with the priest or pastor; it is about recognising that each member is called to be a minister and to share leadership with the whole community.

Some people like to see the designated leaders or ministers as the people at the bottom of a pyramid – supporting those who are doing the real work of the Church in the world. Although this is a wonderful idea, it is not what Local Shared Ministry is about. In Local Shared Ministry all members share the responsibility for supporting one another and acting as ministers in the Church and in the wider world.

Local Shared Ministry requires each person to look to Christ as the head of the Church. LSM communities are mutually supportive groups in which each person seeks to follow Christ as members of one body.

In practice, there may be particular individuals who are called to do certain functions within the community. Some may be set aside for sacramental ministry or to preach. Others may be called to coordinate or facilitate the life of the body. These special functions are always seen as subsets of membership rather than a matter of status or power.

What does LSM Look Like?

1. Ministering Communities

In a Local Shared Ministry community each person is aware that they are part of a ministering community, rather than members of a community gathered around a minister. In other words a Local Shared Ministry community includes lay and ordained people who are all active in service as fellow disciples. In a Local Shared Ministry community all are members, all are ministers and all are leaders.

Local Shared Ministry is not about filling the gaps left because there may be fewer paid or stipendiary ministers. It is about a different way of being Church.

2. Responding to God’s Call

In a Local Shared Ministry community each person is aware that they are called by God for some form of ministry. This ministry might involve work in the Church but it is equally likely to involve service in the wider world – or a combination of the two.

For instance, one person may feel that they are called to serve God as a shop assistant, banker, social worker or teacher. The LSM community would recognise this as their main ministry and would pray for them and seek to support them in this work. Within the Church they would still regard themselves as a minister rather than a ‘passenger’ and act accordingly. This may be reflected in the way they encourage or support others.

Someone else may feel a calling to preach and would be trained and supported in this ministry. Working with others they would learn how to exercise this ministry alongside their everyday life and work.

Within the community there may also be an ordained priest who feels a particular call to work with older people or to campaign on environmental issues. The community would explore this with them and may encourage them in this work rather than expect them to exercise a general ministry.

Local Shared Ministry is not about turning lay people into mini-ministers but about recognising that God calls us all to follow him in a range of different ways.

In practice this will mean that there are regular opportunities for people to explore new ministries or for the community to discover how God may be calling each member.

In some Local Shared Ministry communities there will be discernment processes during which each member is asked to prayerfully nominate people who they feel are called to particular forms of ministry; for example, pastoral care, preaching, practical action, evangelism or priesthood. These names are put forward during worship and those who are nominated are then interviewed by a team who attempt to discern how God may be calling these people. Those who are called to preaching or priesthood may also be required to go through the selection processes chosen by their denomination.

There might also be processes, courses or events which provide members with an opportunity to review their call – to think of tasks and roles that they may need to lay down, as well as new callings which they may need to take up.

Using discernment processes on a regular basis, and by encouraging each person to continually review their call, the community will grow and develop in local ministry.

3. Mission Focussed

Local Shared Ministry communities understand that the purpose of the Church is to join God in his mission throughout creation. They are rooted in local communities or networks and are capable of identifying needs and opportunities to which they are willing to respond.

In practice the community may choose to carry out a mission audit from time to time looking carefully at the needs of the wider world and seeking to find ways of responding in loving action.

Their understanding of mission will be broad and they will continually be seeking God in prayer as they attempt to discern what God is saying to them about their purpose and call.

The five marks of mission may provide a helpful set of criteria for analysing the mission of the LSM community. In fact the community may wish to use these as part of an annual review.

The Five Marks of Mission:

· to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom

· to teach, baptise and nurture new believers

· to respond to human need by loving service

· to seek to transform unjust structures of society

· to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and to sustain the life of the earth

4. Interdependence

Local Shared Ministry communities are not dependent on the work of paid ministers who exercise ministry on their behalf. In fact, they believe that God has already given them everything they need in order to answer his call. They just need to identify where these resources are. There may already be people in the community who have the necessary gifts, or the community may need to find the right partners to work with.

For example, a church or community may feel that they need more pastoral support for housebound people. They would not assume that this should be the responsibility of a stipendiary minister (assuming that they have one) but would discuss this issue as a community and attempt to identify people who may be called to this work. They would also talk things through with others and find out if training is available through their denomination or partners. They might also investigate the possibility that there are other groups, churches or organisations with whom they might work.

LSM communities are interdependent. They think of themselves as part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. They are therefore in a mutually accountable relationship with other churches and with the denominations to which they belong. This means that they will honour their traditions and work within denominational rules and expectations.

Each LSM community will engage with the continuing development of ministry in Milton Keynes through ongoing dialogue with the Project Group and cross-fertilisation with other communities. Mutual learning will continue. This may take part through groups and gatherings but there is also a need to report back on what may be going on.

5. Collaborative Leadership

In a Local Shared Ministry community everyone is involved in decision making and every voice must be heard. Local Shared Ministry communities recognise that God’s voice is often found in the most unlikely of places and the Spirit can speak through each and every person.

Only a few members may be natural leaders or be particularly articulate. Many people may be happy to be led, but the Spirit is at work in each person and God often chooses to speak through people who are unwilling, shy or uncertain.

This means that those who have positions as ‘designated leaders’ must always seek to find new ways of including more people in discussions, and ensuring that everyone can have opportunities to lead according to their gifts and calling.

In practice this means that there may be congregational meetings, lots of consultation, good communication systems and that any council or leadership team will seek to facilitate decisions rather than make decisions by themselves.

6. People in LSM Communities

Local Shared Ministry communities do not have one person who they expect to provide ministry, leadership or support. They are not communities gathered around a minister (or ministers) but ministering communities. In order to achieve this, there are a range of people who have particular roles or callings:

Members: The contributions of each and every member are valued, supported and resourced, whether their ministry be in the Church or in the world. In a Local Shared Ministry community you might expect to see people prayed for when they start new jobs or take on roles in the community. Ministry is seen as an ever developing call (see Responding to God's Call)

Specific Ministries: Some members of an LSM community may be given clearly defined roles or authorised for specific tasks. There will be a wide range of different ministries, ranging from administrative tasks to sacramental service. Some of these roles will require people to be elected, selected or appointed. Some people will need to be trained, authorised or ordained in a formal way.

LSM communities celebrate diversity and recognise that each member has a different, equally valuable and complementary contribution to make.

Sacramental Ministers: There will be individuals in the community who are set aside to baptise, preside at Holy Communion or exercise an official diaconal or priestly ministry. These individuals will need to be ordained and authorised by a denomination.

Some of these individuals will be non-stipendiary ministers, trained and ordained elsewhere but appointed to serve as part of the local team. Alternatively, some may be paid or stipendiary ministers who are appointed to work with the community.

In practice, however, it is hoped that a number of priests or 'sacramental ministers' will be called out from the local community and then trained and ordained to serve within the community to which they belong. (Unfortunately, this is not possible at the moment for all of our denominations.)

Professional Ministers: The term 'profession' refers to an occupation, vocation or high-status career, usually involving prolonged academic training, formal qualifications and membership of a professional or regulatory body. Professions involve the application of specialised knowledge of a subject, field, or science, in certain tasks that unqualified (or lay) people cannot ordinarily undertake.

Following this definition, anyone who is an ordained priest or minister is a member of a profession - as are licensed lay ministers or local preachers.

In a Local Shared Ministry community there will therefore be 'professional' ministers but they will work alongside their brothers and sisters who they know are also called to be ministers in the church. Professional status does not necessarily imply a leadership role or indicate that these individuals are expected to put in more time or greater commitment. On the other hand, they do have to relate to their external ‘professional bodies’ and may have particular duties and responsibilities within the Church. These should be exercised with care and in a way that acknowledges the value of each individual.

Although some individuals may be seen as ‘professional’ in a formal sense (and this may include teachers, youth-workers, accountants, doctors, etc…) an LSM community would also expect a degree of professionalism from those who are called to roles within the community.

Paid Ministers: There may well be a number of paid or stipendiary ministers who work with the Local Shared Ministry community. These individuals could be assigned to the community or employed by it. Alternatively, they may work with a number of communities, providing a certain amount of input to each.

This category includes administrators, youth workers and stipendiary ordained ministers. The key difference between Local Shared Ministry and more traditional forms of church is that paid ministers would not be expected to provide the majority of the ministry, but would fulfill very specific and limited roles.

Examples of general roles might include:

Witness: Telling people about Jesus

Coordinator: Helping a community to make plans and organize itself

Agent: Acting on behalf of God or the Church

Resourcer: Creating or making available resources that help the Church in its life and mission

Prophet: Helping people to hear God’s word for them

Intercessor: Praying for the needs of the Church and the world

Enabler: Helping other people to fulfill their calling

Authoriser: Acting on behalf of the Church to approve and empower others in ministry

More specifically, a stipendiary minister may act primarily as a youth worker, enabler or pastoral worker, rather than attempt to do everything as the 'leader' or 'minister' of the church. An individual may be paid to coordinate the work of the church or act on its behalf in schools, residential homes, or in the local shopping centre.

Paid ministry is valuable, because it enables the church to release people for particular tasks or make particular skills or expertise available in a way that would not be possible with volunteers alone. The important thing to note is that volunteer ministry should not be seen as an alternative to paid ministry, but that paid ministry is used to resource, supplement or empower voluntary ministry.

Supervision: Each LSM community needs someone to act as supervisor. This person would get to know them well and act as the main link between the community and the denominational authorities.

This person would help the community to manage their activities and resources, ensuring that good practice is followed and that clear vision and strategy is established.

This person will support the community when they face particular challenges and will be the first port of call for difficult questions. He or she will be available to the community as a listening ear and an understanding heart.

This person will act as mediator between the community and the wider church, and will also help to resolve conflicts between individuals and groups.

This person will help the community to identify needs for further training and education. He or she will also act to ensure that access to training and education is provided.

The identity of the ‘supervisor’ may vary in each case. He or she will normally be an ordained minister or a denominational officer, e.g. the Circuit Superintendant or Area Dean. It may be possible for the supervisor to be a member of the local team but we would not recommend this.

In the first pilot project the supervisor was the Anglican Area Dean, who acted as ‘priest in charge’. In a multi-church partnership one of the ministry team may take on this role. In some settings a minister from another parish or church may be used.

It is important that everyone involved is clear about the role of the supervisor and that there is agreement about the timing of meetings, reviews and formal contact.

Companion: We recommend that each LSM community should have a ‘companion’ who will get to know the community and help them reflect on their story, structures and practice of ministry. The purpose of having a companion is to encourage mutual learning and spread good practice. Companions must be members of the LSM project group and are expected to follow a mentoring model. This involves:

  • Active listening
  • Observation
  • Encouragement
  • Support
  • Challenging assumptions
  • Pointing out possibilities
  • Negotiating plans and objectives
  • Modeling collaborative ministry

Companions should be reliable, approachable, non-judgmental and realistic.

In each instance, the nomination of a specific companion will be negotiated between the community, the project group and any participating denominations. The project group will act as the mutual supervision group for companions who will report in at each meeting of the group.

7. LSM Schemes

LSM projects must be negotiated and authorised by the appropriate denominational/ecumenical bodies. This means that churches and communities who are interested in exploring Local Shared Ministry must negotiate this with their denominational and ecumenical bodies and parters before the project can become an official LSM community. The Project Group has the responsibility for coordinating this negotiation and ensuring that an appropriate scheme in created.

An LSM scheme includes agreements about supervision, deployment, funding, and the provision of a companion. It would be normal for such a scheme to inaugurated as a commissioning service at which a public covenant is made.

LSM is a journey not a destination

Local Shared Ministry is fundamentally about discipleship rather than structures. We therefore expect communities to continue learning as they seek to follow Christ. No LSM community will therefore "arrive" at its destination but will continue to develop and change.

The communities, the denominations and the project group will continue to reflect on theology and experience as they seek to develop better ways to support and empower ministry. Reflection, review and rethinking are central to the pursuit of Local Share Ministry in Milton Keynes.

Iona Runs!

Iona is doing a cross country run on Saturday. The school doesn't really do much in the way of preparation and we haven't had much time for practice at home, but I took her for a run around Furzton Lake this evening - just to make sure she could survive it!

She did very well. We did one lap in 15 minutes, which is roughly 1 1/2 miles. She was clearly confident and keen and determined to get round without stopping. To be honest, she gave me a run for my money! If she keeps this up it won't be long before I will struggle to keep up!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Obama wins!

I've been dozing on the sofa for the past three hours but woke up a few minutes ago. It's 4:00am and Barack Obama has just been "projected" to win the election. Here's the moment according to CNN:
The decision has been made. What will happen next? As for me, I'm off back to sleep...

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

The blank sheet

BBC website with no votes counted...

US Election

It's quarter past 11 on Tuesday evening. I've come in from my evening meeting and finished off a few jobs. I'm sitting down in front of the TV watching some of the coverage of the US election.

Obviously this is a significant night which will have consequences for millions of people, both in the US and elsewhere. Which way will it go? The polls suggest Obama, but American elections have sometimes produced some real surprises. As David Dimbly has just said, it's the voters that count not the polls...

In 2000 and 2004 I sat up and watched some of the results - more than a little depressed to see the US elect George Bush. I was particularly depressed in 2004 when they re-elected him after Iraq. I may sit up and watch some of the early results this year. I'd like to see a democrat back in the White House and hope that Obama is as radical as he appears...

Community Organising in Milton Keynes

At the Mission Partnership Assembly this evening Tim Clapton talked about community organising - a topical theme given the previous employment record of Barak Obama - on the day of the US election.

Tim has been working on this project for over a year and is hoping to bring the Citizens project to Milton Keynes. Things seem to be developing nicely and this could be really exciting.

Community Organising began with the work of Saul Alinsky in Chicago who wrote, "Rules for Radicals" which was published in 1971.

Tim described the process that the Citizens project will probably follow. It begins with the construction of a community alliance, made up of groups like churches, mosques, schools and other local groups. These groups then meet and engage in a process of serious listening through which key community issues are identified. There is then a democratic decision (with each group given one vote) which identifies the key issues that the alliance wants to address. The alliance then identifies the people who have the power to address these issues and acts to persuade these people to enact change.

He gave us a range of great stories including that of some nuns who helped persuade a bank to pay its cleaning staff a living wage by depositing small change from a large number of collecting tins on a Saturday morning...

This project could be really significant and I look forward to seeing where it will lead...

Monday, 3 November 2008

Money, money, money

As the world faces a "financial meltdown" or "credit crunch" there are similar problems in many of our churches.

In Milton Keynes we have been wrestling with the uncomfortable reality that we do have to live within our means rather than rely on an external subsidy. Bit by bit over the past few years, we have been slowly working to find ways of covering our own costs, through a process of increased giving and more realistic ministerial deployment.

Overall this has been working and I've been feeling very postitive, but there are still challenges ahead...

Firstly, of course, is the credit crunch and the impending recession. Our financial plans are dependent on increased giving: around 7% for Anglican share and 11% for the Mission Partnership. If people's ability to give declines then we will have some issues...

Secondly, there are the inevitable local issues. In Watling Valley these have recently come to a head because long term financial difficulties in one church have left them unable to pay last year's share in full and well behind on this year's.

If you combine the two you get local crises with no room for manoeuvre...

In Watling Valley there was a really super meeting this evening, between treasurers, church reps and the ministry team. Those present reflected on the current state of things and acknowledged that none of the churches would find share payments easy next year and would probably dip into dwindling reserves to keep themselves afloat. I think it was suggested that more than £20,000 would be needed... but I may have misheard...

In spite of the challenges, the mood was positive and a lot of valuable discussion took place. There was enthusiasm and a desire to maintain existing levels of ministry - to continue developing new work and develop greater capacity for mission.

One of the main themes was a desire to help church members understand the financial need by giving them more information about how their money is used. There was also a desire to find ways to address some of the popular myths about church finance, i.e. that the government pays for it all...

There is much to be done, but great potential for growth as we take our responsibility as stewards of God's gifts more seriously. There is also an opportunity to rethink how we use those resources and what we actually need.

"Sustainability" may sound like a dull concept, but it is crucial to the long-term survival of the planet. Only sustainable churches will have anything meaningful to offer a post-peak, environmentally challenged world...

Preaching Hat?

No, Jeff has not had a new hair cut, this is his new hat.

Apparently he plans to wear it for the Dons...

I have suggested that we should adopt this as a new style of liturgical dress - a preaching hat?

Any suggestions for other contemporary ecclesiastical costume?

Blog Feeds

A couple of people have asked me how to add blog feeds to a blog. Here are the instructions for use on blogger:

1. Click "Customise" at the top  right of the page.
2. Click "Add Gadget" in the column where you want to place your feed.
3. Click the + button next to "Blog List"
4. You can now alter the setting for you feed, indicating the title of the list, the order of the posts, the number of blogs displayed and so on...
5. To add a blog to the feed, click "Add a blog to your list" and type in (or paste) the URL of a blogs home page, i.e. without specifics about page or entry, e.g.
6. Click "Save" to complete the process.
7. If you want to add more blog feeds, just go back to the gadget and repeat stage 5.

It's fairly straight forward.