Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Tueaday

Team Meeting
Supervisions Session with Liz
School Performance: Hagbane's Doom

Monday, 30 March 2009

Funeral

I took the funeral today for Diana Colyer.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Passion Sunday

The Assumption, Wavendon
I started the day with a 9:45am service at Wavendon. It's hard to believe this church is really part of Milton Keynes Deanery since Wavendon is just outside the boundaries of the city and feels like a rural parish. It would be interesting to know how many people come from the village and how many walk or drive in from the city...It was good to meet some new people here and begin to get to know them. I was also pleased to see an old friend from Holy Cross who has moved east so there was one familiar face...

Water Eaton AGM
I managed to scoot across to Water Eaton in time to join St Frideswide for their AGM. I missed the annual meeting of parishioners but was pleased to hear that Gail and Ron have been elected as church wardens. Ron replaces Malcolm who has done such a good job steering this vibrant congregation into its current phase of growth.
I chaired (most of) the AGM which was a good experience - as it was last year. It's a good way of indicating official support and involvement while giving them space to be themselves. They're a good bunch. This LSM pilot project is going well!

All Saints AGM
I was a bit late for the All Saints' Loughton AGM but this was fine since Derek Martin was in the chair and doing a really good job. It was good to see how the AGM functioned after a year of congregational meetings supported by a servant leadership team.
I particularly enjoyed the green voting cards that members got to wave.
Although All Saints' isn't an official LSM pilot it's busy doing all the things we might expect an LSM community to do. It would be good to see them get a bit of credit for their achievements.

Memorial Service
Derek Martin was also leading a memorial service this afternoon at All Saints' and did a good job as far as I can see. Well done Derek!

Wedding Preparation
We held our second revamped Watling Valley wedding prep session at All Saints' this afternoon. It seemed to go extremely well and we had eight couples (I think).
It was good to see members of the team begin to relax and develop their presentations as they began to feel at home with the material. These sessions are improving all the time! A big win for the WVEP team!

Hospital
I finished the day with a trip into hospital to see someone who is really not well. Her grandaughter phoned me this afternoon to let me know.

Home
After a long day of work it was good to have a quick snack and watch Heston Blumenthal as a family and collapse into bed - sleep....

Saturday, 28 March 2009

A Wonderful World

Wendy and Laura from All Saints' Loughton organised an amazing concert, "It's a Wondeful World" for the reordering fund. They raised roughly £1,300 and we all had a good evening - watch out for more in the Citizen...

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Area Dean's Notices

Dear friends,
I hope you're having a good Lent and finding time for yourself in the business of Church life. I've just got a few notices to circulate to Deanery Synod members before Holy Week begins...

The Diocesan Year Book
As most of you will know, we've been working with the Diocese to attempt to correct/amend the year book. I met with the Diocesan Secretary on Monday and we talked through all the issues that had been raised. We received over fifty suggestions for changes, and I hope most of them will appear in next year's book. Assuming all goes to plan the Mission Partnership will no-longer be known as "The Milton Keynes Deaf Church" and the minister of Spurgeon's Baptist Church will no-longer receive all the mail for St Frideswide's.

The Diocese have also welcomed the suggestion that the names of Chaplains could appear in the Deanery section. At the moment they are only listed in a section at the back.
These things may seem insignificant but they are important to some - and they can be symbolically important.

The season of annual meetings is fast approaching, so please make sure that you send in any changes so that next year's year book will be as accurate as we can make it.
Thanks for all who contributed to this project and sent in comments. I'm sure it was worth doing.

Deanery Share Rebate
Peter Green tells me that he was able to send in the two-tenths of the share required by the diocese before the end of March. This means that we will get a small amount of rebate - which will help pay our overall share - since we are still looking at a big shortfall this year. This will be a difficult year for many of us financially, so this achievement is worth celebrating. Please thank your treasurers for the extra effort that they may have made to pay early. In difficult times every little helps.

Deanery Strategy Group
At the January meeting of the Deanery Synod we commissioned a small group to do some work on our deanery strategy. Members of this group agreed that they would meet four times between February and September and would attempt both to review the existing Deanery Plan and help the deanery produce a new one.

They met in February and spent some time reviewing our current Deanery Plan: A Framework for the Future. I've attached a letter which sets out their conclusions - which you may wish to look through for yourself. Do you agree with their initial comments about the life and work of the deanery over the past few years? What would you like to add?

This is going to be fairly long process and the group will meet again on 23rd April to look at the Diocesan Vision: Living Faith. I'm sure it would be possible for others to join us on that evening, so please let me know if you're interested.

The Strategy Group hopes to bring an initial report to the next Deanery Synod at which this will be the main discussion item. There will be more opportunities for engagement as this project develops.

It is important however to strike a balance between involving people and giving them another huge burden. We will therefore try to make this a light and low key process - with regular opportunity for involvement, feedback and engagement.

One way that churches could engage with this process would be to answer four questions that may give us a sense of where the deanery is going.
The Deanery Strategy Group would therefore like each church, parish or partnership to answer the following four questions if time allows:

1. How does your church community relate to its local area?

2. How are church members engaged in Christian service in the church and the world?

3. What relationships does your church community have with other churches/Christians?

4. What are your hopes for your church/parish over the next five years?


It would be particularly useful to know if there have been any changes or developments over the past two or three years.
A brief answer would be fine and it would be really great if you could send us a response before the next meeting on the 23rd April if you can.


Quinquennial Inspection Scheme
As you know, we've been trying to sort out this scheme and have agreed that the financial element will be wound up. Our hard working Deanery Treasurer, Tony Stanyer, is now in possesion of the books so we are well on the way to sorting this out. He and Jenni have begun the process of setting up a new scheme - without a financial element - so we should have good news at our next Synod meeting. I am hopeful that we should also be in a good place to return money to churches that have paid in.

Fresh Expressions
I'd also like to remind you that there will be a Mission Shaped Intro course starting on April 20th. This will be an opportunity to learn more about mission in contemprary culture. I've attached the flier.

When most Christians hear the words "fresh expressions" they tend to think about trendy services with coffee, candles and young people. There's nothing wrong with coffee, candles or young people, but it's important to remember that what we now call "fresh expressions" is really what Paul was talking about when he said, "I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some." The fresh expressions process begins with listening and loving service, moves on to community and discipleship and ends with Church. It's about mission rather than worship.

It would be really good to encourage people to think more about how they might do mission in their community, so please advertise this course and encourage people to come along. It might even be fun.

Have a good Easter and a well earned break if you are able to take one.
All the best - -
Tim N

Tim Norwood
tim.norwood@wvep.org
To find out what I'm up to, please visit my blog which can be found at www.timnorwood.name
See: www.mkdeanery.org, www.wvep.org

Thursday

Run
Coffee Plus
Cathi, Howard and Seren
Bp Alan

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Tuesday

EOG
Coventry and the Local Ministry Network
Fresh Expression session as part of rolling programme

Monday, 23 March 2009

Monday

Oxford - Year Book and Fresh Expressions Group

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Mothering Sunday

Mothering Sunday service at St Mary's Woughton at 8:30am. Everyone says, "Happy Mothering Sunday!"

Mothering Sunday service at St Thomas Simpson at 10:30am. Everyone says, "Happy Mothering Sunday!"

We went for a six mile walk around Salcey Forest in the afternoon - tired legs...

Friday, 20 March 2009

A Song for Mothering Sunday

It's really tricky to find an appropriate song for Mothering Sunday. There are a few "Mary songs" in the catholic tradition and a number of issue based songs from the liberal wing, but not many praise songs that pick up some of the biblical images of a "mothering God". I've had a go at a second verse for "Father God" which I hope to try out on Sunday:
As a mother hen lifts
up her wings and draws
her chicks around her,
You are always there to hold us
safe within Your arms.
Your love for us is like the love
that mothers have for those they nurture.
You will not forget your people.
Loving God, You're always with us.

We will sing Your praises,
We will sing Your praises,
We will sing Your praises for evermore.
We will sing Your praises,
We will sing Your praises,
We will sing Your praises for evermore.
Not sure if I can get anyone to sing it but I'll give it a go.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Juliet Turner

Great Juliet Turner gig at the Stables tonight. She was on good form although someone had nicked her bag in Maidstone. She thought that the MK audience was very sympathetic - in a cute way.

She always says something about her songs and admitted tonight that she uses a certain amount of poetic licence in her stories. On the other hand it was good to have a few words about some of her newer songs - particularly the ones she didn't talk about at Greenbelt.

I'm afraid I was often distracted from Juliet's singing by Brian's fingers - the man can play the guitar! How does he know where all the notes are?!

The support act was Gentry Morris (what a name - any relation Mike?) who sang a few songs including one about a box under the bed and one about murdering an adulterous partner (My Heart can surely hurt) - which was a bit disturbing, but did raise a laugh. Check out his MySpace site and you can hear five songs for free).

DAC Site Visit

We had a very useful site visit at All Saints' this morning with representatives of the DAC and English Heritage. They came to meet the Church Wardens and talk about the church's plans for re-ordering.

It was a good visit and demonstrated the value of working together on a project, balancing the needs of a congregation with the need to preserve the best of the past for the sake of the future. The meeting quickly turned into a valuable dialogue as good ideas were shared and the project was given some slight modifications.

It looks like the underfloor heating and stone slabbed flooring will be approved - with some alterations - and they are going to suggest some possibilities for the new chairs. They also had some helpful suggestions about the furnishings and fittings. All in all, it was a good meeting and Roger seems to think it's worth ploughing on with the fund-raising - we're going to get there!

After the meeting I took Mary Saunders up to St Mary's to look at the work that had been done there. It was good for her to see how the work there had turned out. She liked the new toilet, church room and kitchen, and had some helpful hints to make about the old altar frontals. She was particularly impressed with our notice boards and thinks we should get a gold star for them - so well done Nelseys!

The St Mary's re-ordering is a very good example of a project which (after a couple of false starts) was focused on mission needs and resources, rather than an overambitious grand plan which was never going to happen... The image on the left is the architect's model for the original scheme which would have cost half a million - the final project did not bankrupt the church but did provide the resources which were actually needed.

So well done to both St Mary's and All Saints on some well thought out and sustainable development plans - and I am absolutely certain that both churches will use their new resources in creative and effective ways as they continue to develop their mission.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Time

Do you know it often takes longer to prepare for an event than it does to do it... if only it was the other way around...

I've had a fairly frustrating day so far, having spent most of the morning preparing for a service for older people with powerpoint, communion and music - spanning the themes of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter - all at an appropriate level. When I arrived they were tidying up after a chocolate sale and I had been forgotten. Never mind, perhaps I can use the material again next year...

The perils of top down thinking

In the nineteen seventies the regional church leaders in Buckinghamshire agreed to a master plan for Milton Keynes which involved providing local churches in the local settlements of Milton Keynes - dotted around alongside schools, shops and play parks. This plan became part of the development corporations master plan for the new city and was part of an attempt to design a new community with small local centres. The church would provide a form of "spiritual social services" and would do so ecumenically - on an Anglican model. Each area would have it's church building, and it's minister - of one denomination or another. Utopia was just around the corner!

In the eighties the plan began to take shape. Parish boundaries were amended and team rectors were hand picked to create new team ministries. Buildings were provided - through the sale of old rectories and clergy numbers were increased to meet the expected demand.

In some cases there was great initial growth as charismatic leaders gathered congregations around themselves. There were also a few local groups who became churches - with the help of some denominational cash and some cheap ministry. The late eighties and early nineties were the golden age of ecumenism in Milton Keynes....

...except they weren't. The teams were often brought together against their will and were often imposed rather than grown. Some local traditions were crushed, while unsustainable new communities were encouraged. Dysfunctional relationships and cultures were created that have continued (in many cases) to this day!

Perhaps the biggest issues that we were left to deal with were about expectations - around money, ecumenism, ministry or mission. While the rest of the world was moving on, the churches in Milton Keynes were led to believe that the denominations would subsidise them indefinitely, that denominations would cease to be relevant, that one minister for ever 20 to 40 people was a reasonable ratio and that mission was someone else's problem - a sector team or other professionals...

In the nineteen nineties a number of churches began to experience problems. Many clergy had breakdowns, illness or marital difficulty. There were "disagreements" between new ministers and the congregations which had often been gathered around the "founding fathers". In many of our ecumenical congregations the initial period of hope was replaced by conflict, suspicion or worse...

The new millennium marked a time of change for Milton Keynes with a range of forces acting against each other. Challenging analysis, like the Rossdale report, were met with renewed ecumenical enthusiasm - which resulted in the creation of the converged body known as the Mission Partnership. Changes in the deployment of clergy resulted in renewed enthusiasm for team work - particularly in Watling Valley and Woughton where real challenges forced people to work together in a way that they simply hadn't needed to before. The early twenty-first century was a time of renewed vigour for the original ecumenical vision - was this a late spring for the master plan?

Of course there are new forces at work which are driving us into further change. Structural eccumenism has run its course and the Mission Partnership is deconverging after a few brief years. The talk is now about relational ecumenism and the need to work together with an ever-expanding group of partners. Ecumenism is very much alive in Milton Keynes but it's increasingly bubbling up from local relationships rather than a product of the master plan. The denominations are not supporting Milton Keynes with the financial resources that they used to pump in. We are increaingly expected to pay our own way - this means a shift to local responsibility and a radical change in culture. The nature of mission is changing as we increasingly need to relate to a world which doesn't speak our language - the social provision model is no longer appropriate and we need to be more flexible, entreprenureal and innovative...

One of our ministers recently said to me that the ecumenical structures in Milton Keynes were a mistake we couldn't help making. They were an inevitable result of the ecclesiastical agenda in the nineteen sixties and they were imposed on the people of Milton Keynes by church leaders who had a meta narrative of structural unity and the confidence that their master plan was right! In a sense there was nothing else that they could do... but they created an unsustainable and dysfunctional system that has held back the church in this city for many years.

Now you may not agree with his analysis - or mine for that matter - which is slightly more positive - but I think there is a need to recognise that the top-down central-control approach that the denominations took in Milton Keynes may have had some weaknesses. It's certainly been difficult to be flexible and we have been a bit arrogant about our ecumenical achievements while our churches have been in decline.

I support the concept of shared resources because I don't think churches can do everything by themselves. I also believe in the need to work in partnership with others - but... I also believe in collective decision-making, local responsibility and appropriate supervision - which is focussed on growth and development rather than control. I've said these things many times in this blog... As the movers and shakers in Milton Keynes and beyond think about the future I would hope that we don't slide back into the habits of central planning - but find ways of using our shared resources to benefit each local mission unit in this wonderful city.

Cafe Church

Costa Coffee and Gloria Jean's have set up a system which allows church groups to set up cafe churches in their buildings. It's quite a neat little scheme that gives them a way of extending their business and offers churches the opportunity to engage in a bit of fresh thinking.

What I like about this scheme is that it seems to be set up with a certain amount of training and quality control built in. Before you're allowed to hold an event, you have to attend or host a training event - presumably so that the coffee house can ensure that their expectations are met and that the event is of sufficient quality and won't embrace the local churches or the companies in question. It's administered by an organisation called the cafechurch network.

I've been aware of this possibility for a while but haven't known what to do about it. There seems to be a group who are interested, but they may need some partners to work with them - particularly if they're to finance a £300 training session. Anyone for coffee?

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Tuesday

A Mixed Day
  • Team Space
  • Woughton Team
  • Mother's Union Corporate Communion
  • Meeting at School
  • Run
  • Eat
  • Derek M
  • School - Ofsted feedback
  • Mission Partnership Exec
  • Pub with Tim C

The Running Norwoods

Iona and Izzy decided that they wanted to go for a run with me today. We ran 1.5 miles in 16 minutes and then ran home again. They seemed rather keen - I think they may both be up for the Race for Life this year! - Next year they'll probably be to fast for me...

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Dissatisfied

I've been feeling a bit flat recently, and I'm beginning to realise why.
It could be because I'm so busy that I don't know what I'm doing...
It could be because my job is so uncertain that I don't know who I am...
Or it may simply be that I've stopped doing the things that keep me going...

I went on a retreat a few years ago and come to the conclusion that I needed to give more time for exercise, writing and prayer. In 2008 (particularly on my sabbatical) I did find a bit more time for these activities. Blogging was a great help and I ran three or four time a week - but since Christmas I've allowed all three to slide thinking that I have a duty to work harder...

So I guess I'm beginning to realise that a balanced life must include space for the things that nourish us - not just time for sleep or food so we can get back to work ASAP. I need running, blogging and some quiet time for meditation. I suspect we all need different things and it's well worth working out what they are...

Holy Cross AGM

We had the AGM at Holy Cross this morning. We met in a circle and went through the usual round of appointments and reports. The only main item of business was the decision to move the morning service from 9:00am to 9:30am in September - which was passed with one abstention.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Music for all

We had a very splendid evening out with the Solloways and Catherills tonight at the Derngate in Northampton. We saw the Northampton Symphony Orchestra perform "Music from the Films" including the Dambusters (twice) and the Indiana Jones March - it was all stirring stuff - with only six John Williams numbers...

The host did comment about the fact that orchestral music is often regarded as "high brow" although many millions of people go to the cinema every week and enjoy high quality original music.

He's got a point of course.

Composers have always had to work for a living and have often produced their most creative work to order. Once upon a time the church paid - so we got music for the mass. Music has always been a comercial product and cinema music is merely the latest form of paid work - it's that or adverts.

All forms of music have a "high brow" form, whether that's orchestral music, thrash metal or rap. There are certain pieces of music that you can only appreciate if you know the conventions, rules and culture of the genre.

There's nothing wrong with "high brow" or "popular" music of any kind - snobbery is a waste of time - so bring on the dambusters for one more flight.... wings out... goggles on... and away we go! Na, na, na, na na-na-na, na....

How to annoy a vicar's wife...

The Church Times printed a wonderful story this week about an "unconventional" vicar's wife. She was "unconventional" because she married someone who became a vicar, moved into a house, was required to cook for him and his guests, started buying fairtrade products and came up with a few recipes... oh and she's fairly photogenic and is working on a book deal... and she doesn't bake many cakes...

I suspect there were vicar's wives (and husbands) across the country today who were swearing into their cereal or feeling a little bit narked!

I've known many clergy spouses over the years who could be described as "unconventional" - although most of them were just getting on with being themselves. I have seen them ride motorbikes, lecture in psychology, get ordained or work in Sainsburys. I know one who is Jewish. All in all "vicar's wives" are a fairly "unconventional" bunch because they are also human - and reflect the whole range of human experience, skills and interests.

The annoying thing is that there is still a great deal of pressure for them to fit into the classic role - acting as an unpaid curate, housekeeper and caterer - leading the Sunday School and generally being nice...

This Church Times article didn't present an "unconventional" or "alternative" view of "Vicar's Wives" - it simply re-invented the traditional model Nigella style.

I've got nothing against the lady in question and I guess she's got a book to sell, so good on her really - but if we are to build a truly collaborative and diverse church we need to ditch the whole "vicar's wife" thing altogether - or come up with some entirely new role models.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Thursday

Run.
Coffee - York Course Part 2
Lunch at World Vision.
Afternoon meeting of the Community Forum at Rainsbrook STC. I leant about their work with the Cross of Nails Community, Violent Extremism and Gang Culture. All very interesting...

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Joint Council

I attended another energetic joint church council meeting with All Saints' and St Mary's people. There were concerns about budgets, deficits, and block holes - but also a sense that everything will be all right.

Deanery Quiet Day

We had a deanery quiet day at St Mary's today with John Pritchard. He gave us three talks on the theme of betrayal and forgiveness. The real gift of the day was space. John talks a lot about "sustaining the sacred centre" and this was a very good example of this. I came away thinking, yes, this is what we should be offering... In our busy and professional activity we are failing to provide space for spirituality.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Wednesday

I'm conscious that I'm not blogging as much as I have done - or as creatively. The reason for this is probably similar to the reason I often send emails out at 4:00am in the morning....

Life is somewhat chaotic at the moment and I seem to be swamped in "jobs". My desk is out of control and my "to do" list is getting longer... So much for Lent as a time of reflection and giving things up...

Today was a classic of useful business - Team Space this morning, followed by Ministers West followed by Deanery Chapter - all good and worthwhile gatherings leaving me a couple of hours to catch up on jobs (while I should be spending time with the kids) before my evening session with three prospective worship leaders at St Mary's Shenley.

One of the jobs I had to do was update the questions and readings on the on-line Lent Group I'm trying to co-ordinate. I'm conscious that I want this to be a spiritual experience and yet I'm not in a particularly spiritual frame of mind as I approach it - what a wonderful example I set!

Bishop John recently laid down a challenge for clergy to work forty hours a week - plus a further ten hours equivalent to the average time given by church members. While I think this is a good idea in principal, I'm really not sure how to make it happen.

Anyway - appologies for the blogfast and back to work...

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Diocesan Synod

I went to a surprisingly good Diocesan Synod meeting this morning with Jeremy and Mike.

There was a good and balanced discussion about Women Bishops which focussed on the need to respect minority opinions and challenged us to think about how diversity may be protected.

There was a nice piece of input from the new sub dean of the Cathedral who seems genuinely keen to open up the Cathedral to the wider diocese - and is willing to come out to places like Milton Keynes(!) to meet us...

Bishop John showed us a six minute trailer for a new video about the diocesan vision statement "Living Faith" - looking good! (Although I do wonder how much of Living Faith has been "borrowed" from "Being and Doing Church" - not only do we have circles arranged in a cross, we now have talk about business cards... still, it's going to be a lot more professional, so I look forward to borrowing some of it back...)

Didn't get back home until 2:30pm. Printed off some stickers for the book so that it's clear £5 form each copy will go to All Saints' re-ordering fund. I hope to take some more copies round to some churches tomorrow.

The girls were out so I spent some time in the garden digging in some compost and repairing the raspberry frame. We had a really good crop last year, so I'm hopeful that this year will be even better - must remember to put the nets back before the summer though! I also attempted to split the rhubarb in the hope of a larger crop. Isla wants to plant in gooseberry bush, which should squeeze in where the strawberries were - but we could really do with a bit more fruit space - I'm tempted to expand into our veg space...

Pizzas for tea and I then spent the evening preparing the agenda for the next Deanery Pastoral Committe while the girls watched the dancing - and then to bed...

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Thursday

Morning - Dads in school day at CtS part 1
Late Morning - Coffee Plus Lent Group in Loughton
Afternoon - Dads in school day at CtS part 2
Early Evening - lots of ferrying - cubs and ballet
Evening - Wolverton joint PCC - presentation on share allocation
Late Evening - A couple of Lost podcasts and the latest BSG episode on iPod - I like "Head Dad" and am more convinced than ever that Starbuck is Daniel with reconfigured DNA - Boomer is Evil! How will it end?

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Deanery Strategy Group

We had a very good meeting of the Deanery Strategy Group last Thursday. We'll be producing a letter to go to parishes in the next couple of weeks, but here are a few notes for those who are interested...


Deanery Strategy Group
Looking Back: Review of the Previous Deanery Plan
In May 2005 the Deanery of Milton Keynes began a process of consultation and reflection which led to the production of a new Deanery Plan. The process included detailed research, visits to PCCs and an away day. A fairly substantial discussion document was produced which was slowly refined into a twelve page booklet entitled: A Framework for the Future. This was approved by Deanery Synod in June 2006.

The Framework had four key strands which were intended to direct the work of the deanery over the coming years. These were set out as a set of “rules” which would help guide decision-making. There was a general recognition that we were entering a period of transition and change.
The key strands of the Framework were:

1. Sustainability: We decided that every church should pay between 80% and 120% of its ministry costs and that the ability to pay would be used to determine the number of stipendiary clergy in each parish.

2. Ongoing Deanery Development: We decided that it was too early to discuss the possibility of splitting the deanery but that it would be worth looking at “anomalous adjoining areas”. We also recommended that final decisions relating to Anglican funded posts should rest with the Deanery Pastoral Committee.

3. Non-Parochial and New Posts: We set out a policy which would define how decisions about non-parochial and new posts should be made and how they should be funded. We were keen that costs should be shared ecumenically and that new posts would only be considered if we managed to reduce our total level of deployment below the maximum set by the Archdeaconry – 18.

4. Encouraging Local Development: We came up with three key ideas which we hoped would help local churches:

a. Supporting Church Development: We offered £500 to each church from our reserves to help pay for external resources, e.g. Natural Church Development or Building Healthy Churches.

b. New Forms of Church and Ministry: We suggested that an ecumenical project group be set up to look at how we support the development of local church ministry.

c. Changing the way buildings are used: We also suggested that an ecumenical project group be set up to look at ways of assessing, developing, mothballing or redeveloping church buildings.

The process of producing the Framework was extremely valuable since it brought people together and helped develop more healthy links and relationships. This seemed to re-energise the deanery and resulted in an increase in creativity and vision.

The impact of the Framework can only be judged by reviewing events over the following three years:

Groupings: The initial discussion document explored a range of potential groupings which were fairly radical and linked churches on the basis of style rather than geography. Although this idea was dropped in the Framework we have seen a growth in creative partnerships over the following few years as Anglican and LEP churches have begun to work more closely with new partners – particularly amongst the independent churches.

Church Development: The offer of £500 per church was not taken up. This may be because those churches that were already pursuing a “healthy churches” agenda didn’t need the money. We didn’t have the capacity to make this offer in a more proactive way.

Use of Buildings: No ecumenical project group was set up to look at buildings or the way they are used. Since there was no-one available to drive this issue it was forgotten.

Financial Sustainability: Although we set ourselves a clear target in 2006 it was not obvious how this would be achieved. The existence of an LEP Funding Schemes seemed to make it difficult for us to set the direction of future share payments. A great deal of work was done by the Deanery Finance Committee in 2007 to understand, model and predict share payments. We then produced a ten year transition plan with the intention that every church would pay 80% of its cost of ministry by 2013 and that we would collectively pay 100% of our cost of ministry by 2018. A new share policy was agreed in November 2007.

Deployment: We recognised that sustainability would only be achieved if we were willing to face a reduction in our deployment of stipendiary clergy. We followed our own “rules” and applied them to a number of parishes including Bletchley, Woughton, Water Eaton and Watling Valley. In 2005 we had 21.2 stipendiary posts. By 2008 that figure had fallen to 16.2.

Parish Boundaries: Although we were not able to address the issues relating to our boundaries with other deaneries, we did tidy up one of our internal boundaries – between Watling Valley and Calverton. This change was made to give clarity to our work in the new area, usually known as Area 10 and 11.

Lay Ministry: The need for greater empowerment, support and training for lay ministry was recognised as a key issue in the discussions of 2005/6. There has been an explosion of lay ministry over the following three years, particularly in parishes where the number of stipendiary ministers has been reduced. Peter Ballantine has started to change the way training is provided, so that he can respond to local needs. Before 2008 there were no authorised preachers in Milton Keynes Deanery. By the end of 2008 there were over a dozen!

Local Shared Ministry: An ecumenical project group was set up in January 2007 to look at the model of ministry known as Local Shared Ministry, Mutual Ministry or Total Ministry. This group reported at the end of 2007 with the conclusion that the “New Zealand Model” was not appropriate for our context but that a more bottom-up approach could be developed. During 2008 the group refined its ideas and began to expand the conversation in early 2009.

In the meantime the congregation of St Frideswide in Water Eaton have become our first LSM pilot and seem to be growing in depth and numbers. This project was reviewed in October 2008 and there will be “a celebration of a new ministry” at some point in 2009.

Fresh Expressions: A fresh expressions project group was set up in June 2008 to look at the development, support and training of those involved in fresh expressions and pioneer ministry. An away day was held in October 2008 and courses were planned for 2009. Although this was not a direct proposal from the deanery plan this development does reflect the Framework’s emphasis on the training and support of lay ministry and the need to engage with the wider community.

Deanery Posts: We started to review our deanery level posts in November 2007. A small group produced the proposal that we should aim for three half-time posts linked to strategy/coordination, mission/enabling and training/nurture. We met with the Bishop, Archdeacon and Parish Development Officer and discovered that we lacked clarity about the vision and values of the deanery. We did, however, decide to use one of our mothballed posts to kick-start further development by setting aside the area dean for ¾ time. This was debated throughout 2008 and finally agreed in January 2009.

These few brief paragraphs are only a summary of the work that has been done by the deanery during the past three years and they represent an incredible amount of work by a number of people. We recognise that similar journeys and processes have taken place in local parishes and we would hope to take note of some of these in our final report.

We are also interested in the way that this process began with issues about deployment and money – and ended with questions about vision and values. This almost seems the wrong way around, although we do note that authors often write the introduction after they have written their book. The next deanery plan must, however, work from vision and values to strategies and tasks – rather than the other way around.

Key Issues and Criteria for Assessment
Looking back at the previous deanery plan, and observing the work that has taken place since then, we could say that the next deanery plan must address the following eight issues:

Engagement with the World:
• We must be able to respond to real needs with loving action.
• We must be able to meet people where they are.

Local Churches:
• Each church should be growing in health and depth of discipleship.
• The boundaries between parishes should be appropriate for our mission.

Local Ministry:
• Responsibilities should be shared between lay and ordained people.
• Each church must have a sufficient number of local members who are trained and supported in ministry.

Enabling Leadership:
• We need a sufficient number of professional ministers to support our people and communities.
• Our ministers must have the skills and abilities needed for enabling and supporting lay people.

Effective Use of Buildings:
• Our buildings must be accessible to non-church members.
• We must be able to engage with those who use our buildings.

Relationships:
• There should be high quality relationships between Anglicans in Milton Keynes.
• There should be warm and productive relationships with other churches.

Functional Structures:
• Anglican structures and decisions should be clear, transparent and accountable.
• Ecumenical relationships should have positive benefits for Christian witness, discipleship and mission.

Finance:
• Each Church should be paying between 80% and 100% of its cost of ministry.
• Local giving across the deanery must be sufficient to pay our costs.

Potential Questions for Local Churches
Using these issues abstracted from the notes, we could ask the following questions:
1. How have you been responding to real needs in your local area?
2. How have you been meeting people where they are?
3. How has your church been growing in health and depth of discipleship?
4. Are the boundaries between your parish and those around you appropriate for your mission? If not, what are the issues?
5. How are responsibilities shared between lay and ordained people in your church?
6. What forms of lay ministry do you find helpful in your church?
7. What training and support do the members of your church need for Christian service?
8. What skills and abilities do you think an ordained minister needs to have if a church is to grow?
9. How is your building accessible to non-church members?
10. How do you engage with those who use your building?
11. How do you relate to other Anglicans in Milton Keynes?
12. How do you work with other churches?
13. How have Anglican decisions affected your church?
14. What effect do the ecumenical structures have on your ministry and mission?
15. Do you know how much of your ministry costs are paid through your share contributions? If so, how much?
16. What challenges are you facing in the payment of your parish share?

Tuesday - Parent Forums?

9:00am Team Space
10:30am Deanery Leadership Team
1:00pm Preaching Training with Nigel
7:30pm Mission Partnership Assembly

I'm part of a small group looking at parent forums and parent councils at the moment. I'm fascinated by some of the research that I've read today - particularly through Human Scale Education. One of the key issues seems to be the added value that parental involvement can bring. There has been a certain amount of research into the benefit of parents supporting their children's learning but HSE suggest, and I suspect they are correct, that the involvement of parent in decision making should also have a measurable impact on educational standards - unfortunately there's been very little research into this yet. There is a school in Luton which has done some work on this area - I think a visit may be called for...

In the meantime, if anyone knows any relevant research, please let me know.

MK Deanery on Twitter

Milton Keynes Deanery can be found on the popular social networking site, Twitter. You can follow MK Deanery and become part of our network.

Visit twitter.com/MKDeanery

Reviewing the Deanery Plan

Deanery Strategy Group
At the January 2009 meeting of the Milton Keynes Deanery Synod, a small working group was set up to review our deanery plan and co-ordinate the production of a new one. (See Deanery Strategy Group.) We agreed that the small group would meet four times during the coming year and would ensure that a wider circle of groups and individuals would be included in the process.

Meeting One: 26 February 2009
At this meeting the Strategy Group reviewed the existing documents and discussed the progress of the current deanery plan.

Looking Back: Review of the Previous Deanery Plan
In May 2005 the Deanery of Milton Keynes began a process of consultation and reflection which led to the production of a new Deanery Plan. The process included detailed research, visits to PCCs and an away day. A fairly substantial discussion document was produced which was slowly refined into a twelve page booklet entitled: A Framework for the Future. This was approved by Deanery Synod in June 2006.
The Framework had four key strands which were intended to direct the work of the deanery over the coming years. These were set out as a set of "rules" which would help guide decision-making. There was a general recognition that we were entering a period of transition and change.
The key strands of the Framework were:

1. Sustainability: We decided that every church should pay between 80% and 120% of its ministry costs and that the ability to pay would be used to determine the number of stipendiary clergy in each parish.
2. Ongoing Deanery Development: We decided that it was too early to discuss the possibility of splitting the deanery but that it would be worth looking at "anomalous adjoining areas". We also recommended that final decisions relating to Anglican funded posts should rest with the Deanery Pastoral Committee.
3. Non-Parochial and New Posts: We set out a policy which would define how decisions about non-parochial and new posts should be made and how they should be funded. We were keen that costs should be shared ecumenically and that new posts would only be considered if we managed to reduce our total level of deployment below the maximum set by the Archdeaconry – 18.
4. Encouraging Local Development: We came up with three key ideas which we hoped would help local churches:
a. Supporting Church Development: We offered £500 to each church from our reserves to help pay for external resources, e.g. Natural Church Development or Building Healthy Churches.
b. New Forms of Church and Ministry: We suggested that an ecumenical project group be set up to look at how we support the development of local church ministry.
c. Changing the way buildings are used: We also suggested that an ecumenical project group be set up to look at ways of assessing, developing, mothballing or redeveloping church buildings.

The process of producing the Framework was extremely valuable since it brought people together and helped develop more healthy links and relationships. This seemed to re-energise the deanery and resulted in an increase in creativity and vision.

The impact of the Framework can only be judged by reviewing events over the following three years:

Groupings: The initial discussion document explored a range of potential groupings which were fairly radical and linked churches on the basis of style rather than geography. Although this idea was dropped in the Framework we have seen a growth in creative partnerships over the following few years as Anglican and LEP churches have begun to work more closely with new partners – particularly amongst the independent churches.

Church Development: The offer of £500 per church was not taken up. This may be because those churches that were already pursuing a "healthy churches" agenda didn't need the money. We didn't have the capacity to make this offer in a more proactive way.

Use of Buildings: No ecumenical project group was set up to look at buildings or the way they are used. Since there was no-one available to drive this issue it was forgotten.

Financial Sustainability: Although we set ourselves a clear target in 2006 it was not obvious how this would be achieved. The existence of an LEP Funding Schemes seemed to make it difficult for us to set the direction of future share payments. A great deal of work was done by the Deanery Finance Committee in 2007 to understand, model and predict share payments. We then produced a ten year transition plan with the intention that every church would pay 80% of its cost of ministry by 2013 and that we would collectively pay 100% of our cost of ministry by 2018. A new share policy was agreed in November 2007.

Deployment: We recognised that sustainability would only be achieved if we were willing to face a reduction in our deployment of stipendiary clergy. We followed our own "rules" and applied them to a number of parishes including Bletchley, Woughton, Water Eaton and Watling Valley. In 2005 we had 21.2 stipendiary posts. By 2008 that figure had fallen to 16.2.

Parish Boundaries: Although we were not able to address the issues relating to our boundaries with other deaneries, we did tidy up one of our internal boundaries – between Watling Valley and Calverton. This change was made to give clarity to our work in the new area, usually known as Area 10 and 11.

Lay Ministry: The need for greater empowerment, support and training for lay ministry was recognised as a key issue in the discussions of 2005/6. There has been an explosion of lay ministry over the following three years, particularly in parishes where the number of stipendiary ministers has been reduced. Peter Ballantine has started to change the way training is provided, so that he can respond to local needs. Before 2008 there were no authorised preachers in Milton Keynes Deanery. By the end of 2008 there were over a dozen!

Local Shared Ministry: An ecumenical project group was set up in January 2007 to look at the model of ministry known as Local Shared Ministry, Mutual Ministry or Total Ministry. This group reported at the end of 2007 with the conclusion that the "New Zealand Model" was not appropriate for our context but that a more bottom-up approach could be developed. During 2008 the group refined its ideas and began to expand the conversation in early 2009.
In the meantime the congregation of St Frideswide in Water Eaton have become our first LSM pilot and seem to be growing in depth and numbers. This project was reviewed in October 2008 and there will be "a celebration of a new ministry" at some point in 2009.

Fresh Expressions: A fresh expressions project group was set up in June 2008 to look at the development, support and training of those involved in fresh expressions and pioneer ministry. An away day was held in October 2008 and courses were planned for 2009. Although this was not a direct proposal from the deanery plan this development does reflect the Framework's emphasis on the training and support of lay ministry and the need to engage with the wider community.

Deanery Posts: We started to review our deanery level posts in November 2007. A small group produced the proposal that we should aim for three half-time posts linked to strategy/coordination, mission/enabling and training/nurture. We met with the Bishop, Archdeacon and Parish Development Officer and discovered that we lacked clarity about the vision and values of the deanery. We did, however, decide to use one of our mothballed posts to kick-start further development by setting aside the area dean for ¾ time. This was debated throughout 2008 and finally agreed in January 2009.

These few brief paragraphs are only a summary of the work that has been done by the deanery during the past three years and they represent an incredible amount of work by a number of people. We recognise that similar journeys and processes have taken place in local parishes and we would hope to take note of some of these in our final report.
We are also interested in the way that this process began with issues about deployment and money – and ended with questions about vision and values. This almost seems the wrong way around, although we do note that authors often write the introduction after they have written their book. The next deanery plan must, however, work from vision and values to strategies and tasks – rather than the other way around.

Key Issues
Looking back at the previous deanery plan, and observing the work that has taken place since then, we could say that the next deanery plan must address the following eight issues:

Engagement with the World:
• We must be able to respond to real needs with loving action.
• We must be able to meet people where they are.

Local Churches:
• Each church should be growing in health and depth of discipleship.
• The boundaries between parishes should be appropriate for our mission.

Local Ministry:
• Responsibilities should be shared between lay and ordained people.
• Each church must have a sufficient number of local members who are trained and supported in ministry.

Enabling Leadership:
• We need a sufficient number of professional ministers to support our people and communities.
• Our ministers must have the skills and abilities needed for enabling and supporting lay people.

Effective Use of Buildings:
• Our buildings must be accessible to non-church members.
• We must be able to engage with those who use our buildings.

Relationships
• There should be high quality relationships between Anglicans in Milton Keynes.
• There should be warm and productive relationships with other churches.

Functional Structures:
• Anglican structures and decisions should be clear, transparent and accountable.
• Ecumenical relationships should have positive benefits for Christian witness, discipleship and mission.

Finance:
• Each Church should be paying between 80% and 100% of its cost of ministry.
• Local giving across the deanery must be sufficient to pay our costs.

Questions asked by the Planning Group
The Deanery Strategy Group would like each church, parish or partnership to answer the following four questions. It would be really great if you could send us a response before the next meeting on the 23rd April.

1. How does your church community relate to its local area?
2. How are church members engaged in Christian service in the church and the world?
3. What relationships does your church community have with other churches/Christians?
4. What are your hopes for your church/parish over the next five years?

It would be particularly useful to know if there have been any changes or developments over the past two or three years. Please let us know what has been going on, because your response will help shape our collective journey over the next few years.

Optional Questions for Local Churches
If you have a bit more time available, you could have a go at answering these questions for your church or parish. There are quite a few but they might help you in your thinking – and we would be really interested to know what you discover:
1. How have you been responding to real needs in your local area?
2. How have you been meeting people where they are?
3. How has your church been growing in health and depth of discipleship?
4. Are the boundaries between your parish and those around you appropriate for your mission? If not, what are the issues?
5. How are responsibilities shared between lay and ordained people in your church?
6. What forms of lay ministry do you find helpful in your church?
7. What training and support do the members of your church need for Christian service?
8. What skills and abilities do you think an ordained minister needs to have if a church is to grow?
9. How is your building accessible to non-church members?
10. How do you engage with those who use your building?
11. How do you relate to other Anglicans in Milton Keynes?
12. How do you work with other churches?
13. How have Anglican decisions affected your church?
14. What effect do the ecumenical structures have on your ministry and mission?
15. Do you know how much of your ministry costs are paid through your share contributions? If so, how much?
16. What challenges are you facing in the payment of your parish share?

We hope you have found this document useful and we look forward to the discussions that will take place over the coming year.
The Deanery Strategy Group: Tim Norwood, Paul Bright, Jeremy Trigg, Alison Baird and Toks Dosumu.
3/3/09

Deanery Strategy Group

Deanery Strategy Group
The Work of the Group
At the January 2009 meeting of the Milton Keynes Deanery Synod, a small working group was set up to review our deanery plan and co-ordinate the production of a new one. We agreed that the small group would meet four times during the coming year and would ensure that a wider circle of groups and individuals would be included in the process.

The following dates have been set for meetings:
Meeting One: 26 February 2009- At this meeting the Strategy Group reviewed the existing documents and discussed the progress of the current deanery plan. (See notes of the meeting.)
Deanery Pastoral and Standing Committee: 18 March 2009 – The group will report to DPC and there will be a discussion.
Meeting Two: 23 April 2009 – The group looked at the Diocesan Strategy paper, Living Faith. It concluded that this document could provide the structure for our own...
Deanery Synod: 18 May 2009 – The Strategy Group reported to Deanery Synod and there was a discussion. Further comments are being sought from the wider deanery and our ecumenical partners.
Meeting Three: June 2009 - In the light of feedback from the deanery and our ecumenical partners the Deanery Strategy Group produced a rough draft of a deanery plan. This draft will be circulated to the DPC, DLT and DS members...
Deanery Pastoral and Standing Committee: 1 July 2009 – A rough draft plan will be presented to the DPC and there will be a discussion.
Meeting Four: 7 September 2009- In the light of any responses to our initial document, the group will attempt to finalise the draft and make it ready for Deanery Synod?
Presentation to Deanery Synod: 23 September 2009 – It is hoped that the plan will be approved at this meeting...

It is hoped that the Deanery Plan will become a living document which will be reviewed and rewritten on a regular basis. It would be sensible to form a new Deanery Strategy Group in 2010 to review our progress through the year and consider further development. Deanery planning should become a rolling programme…

Monday, 2 March 2009

Shenely Nativity on You Tube

Here are some of the videos from the Shenely Nativity:







More to follow when it's been edited...

Sunday, 1 March 2009

George and the Chaplain: Being Human does God

Isla and I watched the final episode of being human which included an appearance by the Hospital Chaplain - who is called automatically when a staff member is ill. The Chaplain proved to be a better than usual non-stereotypically vicarish bloke who was capable of sarcasm and able to learn.

With the Jewish werewolf George, he encounters a couple of thuggish vampires who are turned away by a Star of David and few verses from 1 Corinthians 13. These verses are helpful for George as he reflects on his need to grow up.

The Chaplain, on the other hand, is given the opportunity to have a more "elastic" world view. George offers him the option of seeing the vampires as "some very bad men". The Chaplain is left to decide whether he should trust the evidence of his eyes - or choose to see the world "through a glass darkly".

There's a lot here about truth, maturity, perception, sacrifice and courage. Throughout the episode different individuals are given the opportunity to make hard choices and grow up a bit. Mitchell chooses to face Herrick knowing it will be his death, but may save his friends. George appears to take the easy option - but it's a double bluff as he himself makes a similar choice. Annie chooses not to walk through the exit door, pulls herself together and goes off on a one ghost anti-vampire crusade.

Throughout the episode it is clear that none of the characters must make the hard choice. There is no pressure and only understanding and only sympathy and support for those who don't. On the other hand, the key characters do all make significant choices and the consequences are a big step forward in their quest to be more human. George observes that his ability to face difficult choices are the very thing that make him human - much to disappointment of Herrick.

All in all a worthy climax to a great series - demonstrating that we don't find our humanity in domestic comfort but on the sharp edges of our own brokenness.

I'm looking forward to series two already...

Working Together

Planning for a Sunday morning service rarely begins with a moment of inspiration - usually it starts with a list of tasks and issues which need to be dealt with. This morning's service at All Saints' was one of those. Here is a cut down list of objectives to be achieved on this occasion:
  • It's the first Sunday of the month so it needs to be an all age service with children included throughout - not too long so that there is time for coffee and no-one gets bored...
  • There are some new wedding kneelers which need to be dedicated...
  • There are two families coming to be welcomed before baptism...
  • There's some lent material which the team have produced so that each service in Lent can be a kind of "Bible Study on a Sunday"... The theme for this week is choices...
  • Peter's doing music so the hymns must work on a guitar...
  • and so on...
When I was taught to lead worship and preach I was encouraged to think about a single idea and how that may be communicated. Leading worship on a Sunday morning is often more a case of knitting together a number of disparate strands to give the illusion of coherence...

Actually I think we did quite well this morning. I worked with John RJ and we did a bit of a double act. We focussed on the theme of choices and wove the various strands together to produce something which felt fairly meaningful and had some positive feedback. Well done us!

The double act worked very well and is always a good thing to do. It demonstrates team work, collaboration, and shared ministry - and provides a good mechanism for using the thoughts and talents of more than one person. It does require a certain amount of improvisation and trust, however, which is also a good thing...

At lunch time I attended the planning meeting for St Mary's Shenley 11 O'clock service. They really didn't need me there - which I think is basically a good thing. They are well on the way with collaborative ministry and are basically "self-organising". It was good to spend some time with them however and it was a good meeting...