Monday, 27 August 2012

Church in Wales Review Sketches Future Directions

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.
I've left in the recommendation about Welsh speaking ordinands for two reasons. Firstly, to remind anyone who reads the report to read it carefully - the Church of England is not the Church in Wales and is rather differently placed in the social structures of community life. The Welsh church has a very different history in respect of its relationship to other denominations, to schools, to government and civic life and you cannot jump directly from the Welsh situation to the English. Secondly, it reminds us that to stay alive, every church, in every kind of cultural setting, should be producing indigenous ministry, lay and ordained. Without this the future is precarious. I also like very much the recommendation about schools. I have always thought (and tried to put into practice) that a parish church should be relating to every school in its area, not just the church schools!

There is a lot of food for thought in this report. It may not be directly applicable to our situation but there is certainly enough similarity in the questions we should be asking about how the future is going to be sustainable and how we work toward change in places where there is resistance or a 'let's bury our heads in the sand and hope for the best' approach. This makes it a worthwhole read. The members of the review group were prominent thinkers with a blend of experience in dealing with matters ecclesiastical and organisational: Lord Harries of Pentregarth, the former Bishop of Oxford; Professor Charles Handy, the eminent writer and adviser on business and organisational theory (and son of a Church of Ireland archdeacon); and Professor Patricia Peattie, former Convenor of the Scottish Episcopal Church’s Standing Committee and the first chairwoman of the Lothian University Hospitals NHS Trust.

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?

2) Is the organisation of the Church in Wales one which enables the Church to be effective
in addressing the nation of Wales?

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?

No comments:

Post a Comment