The Church in Wales recently commissioned a review of mission and ministry and the structures which will support the church of the future. The report of the review group was published in July and you can read it (45 pages) here
The group visited every diocese in Wales and spoke to around 1,000 people who attended open meetings. "The overwhelming impression we have received from these meetings and submissions is an awareness of the need for change, a desire to change, and a commitment to change." I think the report has resonances for dioceses and regions like ours. Having grown up in rural mid Wales, I can see parallels between how our most rural areas relate to their ministry areas - there are similar complexities.
The report contains 50 recommendations which have been acclaimed as quite radical. Perhaps they are radical if you read them from a church perspective, but they strike me as much less so if you read them from a 'change-in-organisations' perspective, from which angle they border on common sense and cumulative learning-from-experience. My impression on reading the report was that we are doing or talking about quite a number of these recommendations already except for those that require substantial legal or structural change. (For example creating new ministry areas and teams and reviewing buildings for their sustainability and community use, both of which we have begun to talk about but are only doing in a rather half-hearted way, hoping that real change will not be necessary, in my opinion!) The most notable recommendations from the report include
- Replace parishes with larger ministry areas, containing around 25 parishes, which would, where possible be aligned to the catchment areas of secondary schools. These ministry areas will be served by a team of clergy and lay people. Small parishes in groups of 8 or 10 are no long sustainable; one priest alone cannot serve as many as 10 parishes, bearing the burden of all the extra attendance at meetings and administration which this kind of multiple of small units necessitates.
- Train lay people to play a more active part in church leadership.
- Engage with young people by working more closely with all schools, not just church schools. Train clergy and lay people to do this.
- Use social media as a norm of communication and, again, train people in the church for this.
- Develop new forms of worship to reach out to those unfamiliar with church services; hold them at times other than Sunday morning, and, where appropriate, in other buildings such as schools and village halls.
- Adapt some church buildings for use by the whole community; close other church buildings that are not needed.
- Sell parsonages so that clergy can buy or rent their own homes.
- Work more closely with other denominations.
- Make it a priority to nurture Welsh-speaking ordinands in the church.
The questions the review group were asked to address are good ones for every diocese
1) Are the resources available being deployed efficiently and effectively to enable the mission of the Church?
3) How should the organisation be adapted to enable the Church to live more fully into a
model of Church life which is theologically and missionally coherent and sustainable in the long term?