We have been seeking God and carefully considering the shape of our third post in the Team, and are now at a stage where there is enough clarity to share with you. This proposal takes seriously the challenges and opportunities we face, and tries to think creatively, sustainably and in a way that allows as much fruitfulness as possible. We are committed to caring for those within our congregations, those within our communities, our schools, those who are seeking, mourning and celebrating. We are committed to working collaboratively with other organisations working to bring transformation in people’s lives, and for our environment.
We are also listening to the concerns of parishes that are not managing to meet their parish share, and we are aware that giving has reduced significantly through the pandemic. There is a lot to consider, particularly given the biblical call of the church to live, breath and act for the benefit of its non-members.
In our vision of who we are as the Stroud Team, the image of the vine from John 15 has been and continues to be very important.
This time has been one of being stripped back and pruned in all kinds of ways, and as we know, that often leads to vigorous new growth, and this is what we are trusting God for.
We also know that it is exactly at the time that we prune that we also need to tie into strong supports so that the growth will be protected and strengthened.
Our vine is made up of many unique and wonderfully called branches – not only the different buildings and communities but multiple worshipping communities within and around those, as well as our mission and ministry in schools, to families at significant times in their lives, in our hospital and nursing homes…
all of this makes for a large, beautiful and complex vine.
And this is where we have been trying to think creatively.
From back in 2018 when Andrew Braddock did a review with us, the suggestion of a Team Manager has been part of our conversation.
A helpful analogy might be a Surgery Manager at the Doctors, who fulfils the vital, pastoral, strategic and administrative tasks, which allows the Doctors to fulfil their call of caring for the sick.
In our context, a Team Manager would be a full-time Lay Minister, called and gifted to fulfil the vital, pastoral, strategic and administrative tasks that allow the Clergy to fulfil their call of proclaiming the Gospel afresh in this generation.
We have seen something of how fruitful this model could be through Fiona being with us as part-time acting Team Manager and her ministry of team building, strategic planning, pastoral care and prayer ministry as well as ensuring we have robust systems in safeguarding and other areas.
As we have been praying and discerning, a job description has evolved.
As you will see, this is a huge role and would provide significant ‘posts and wires’ to tie in and support our fruitful vine.
Having a lay minister as a key member of the leadership team says something important about the value we place on everyone’s ministry, not just those who are ordained. This role would also, as in the Surgery Manager analogy, free up the clergy from administrative tasks so that they can invest more time and energy into mentoring, supporting and resourcing the mission and ministry of our laity.
Again, going back to the image of the vine, when the clergy are freed up to mentor a lay leader, another branch can grow, and they can go on to mentor another, and more growth can happen.
This is the opposite of the image of the laity being there to help the clergy in their mission and ministry, which will always be limited by definition because the focus is on the one.
In this model, the clergy are there to help the laity in their mission and ministry, which opens up so many more opportunities for growth, because you are the very best people to minister to those around you; you are the very best people to reach out to those in your workplace, your street, your family…
The experience of this last year has shaken up everything that we knew, and there are many voices across the church in this town, this nation and the world that are joining together; to take courage, to not fall back into life as normal, to see the new thing God is doing through this.
This does take courage, and we will make mistakes. It is a truly pioneering model we are proposing. But I also believe that it brings us closer to our calling, to present one another mature in Christ [Colossians 1:28]
We haven’t got to this place in a rush.
We want to hear your reflections; not those knee jerk, ‘what about me’ reactions that we humans naturally come to first, but those prayerful, challenging reflections that come as we think about the whole. As these questions arise, speak to Simon, Kate, Helen or Fiona and a variety of voices will respond to them and we will keep this conversation going, as you keep the conversation going. I pray that in all of our conversations we would seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, knowing that then all these things will be given to us as well. [Matthew 6:33]