26th October 2016
It’s been 3 months since I joined you, and I thought it useful to offer some feedback.
Firstly, I want to thank you for the warm welcome you have offered Denise and I. It has been our most challenging start to a new ministry, and we are grateful for your sensitivity and understanding. We both have a positive impression about our new life and home, and look forward to establishing ourselves here for the coming years.
The Bodmin Team Ministry has been subject to a new pastoral scheme that is due to complete at the end of November. This incorporates St. Meubred’s into the team on a permanent basis. I shall then be licensed as Team Rector, with Fran Clemow and Elaine Munday licensed as team vicars.
Roger May will continue his role with the Bishop’s ‘permission to officiate’. Ann Kerridge, Joy Bassett and William Hazelton will be the licensed lay readers in this reconstituted team.
We plan to organise a party to celebrate this in the New Year; a great opportunity to celebrate the joys of being a team! Details to follow.
This new team will exercise its ministry quite differently to that of the past. I was invited by the bishops to be the first ‘Oversight Minister’ in the Diocese of Truro. This is a new concept that Bishop Tim is pioneering in this diocese in the hope that it might be applicable more widely. It implies that ministry is very much the function of the team as a whole, and that I focus more on facilitating it rather than trying to do it all myself. As such, not only am I meeting regularly with the clergy and readers to nurture this team working, but am also meeting on a monthly basis with the team church wardens to instil collective leadership.
The model of oversight ministry is designed to address the challenges we face in new ways. It encourages us to realign our thinking and practice to put first the shared ministry of church members. Clergy and readers will support, train and coordinate. We are here to lead and inspire the whole people of God to exercise shared ministry. We no longer have the capacity to do it all on your behalf. This is a substantial change from traditional ministry, and you can see evidence of this change in our appointment of Local Worship Leaders, Local Pastoral Leaders and other valuable lay ministries. Hence I shall take a less prominent role as Rector of Bodmin, with more emphasis as Oversight Minister for the team ministry.
Turning around the patterns of decline
I have been so impressed by the commitment shown by members of our churches to their weekly services and special events. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to take forward our hopes and aspirations for the future. Nevertheless, we see that our numbers are fewer and that we face acute financial pressures. With its recent ruptures, this is sadly most obvious at St. Petroc’s.
My first 3 months here have helped me understand some of the reasons why the churches of this team are struggling to reverse decline. But the time has been too short to come up with clear answers. In this, the smallest and most vulnerable diocese of Church of England, we are all called to take bold action. I come with some ideas about how we may do so, and in the next 3 months I want to work with each church so that we can implement strategies to grasp a more encouraging future.
Bodmin and its surrounding villages offer a real opportunity in the minds of our bishops and diocese. The situation of its people and its strategic position in Cornwall mean we shall receive support and investment in moving forward. We need to move swiftly to determine how we wish to develop.
My immediate priorities on arriving in Bodmin were to get alongside the congregations at Lanivet and Cardinham and to encourage the families who attend St. Petroc’s. Sheila and Deb have completed their curacies. Dave has retired. The gaps are obvious and hard to fill.
I have been pretty active in Lanivet and am ramping up my involvement in Cardinham. We are concerned about the state of the church buildings and hall, about our outreach amongst children and in schools, and the relentless financial pressures. It is no easy challenge for a village church to spread the load of responsibility amongst the many rather than the few. I hope to help achieve that.
These past months of strife have left families at St. Petroc’s feeling bewildered, so I have taken some
time to get alongside them. We had a party at the rectory and now look forward to some Christmas events. Despite the best efforts of church members, we have had to pause Messy Church so that we can plan for a fresh start in the New Year.
I also felt it important to get behind the teams that take assemblies in our schools. It is a great encouragement that we now have a team for St. Petroc’s School, along with a continuing team at Cardinham School. We feel drawn to restart assemblies at Lanivet and Nanstallon schools, but do
not yet have a way forward. I have become a director at the Saints’ Way Multi Academy Trust, and we are exploring what representation we should have on the governing bodies of St. Petroc’s, Lanivet, Cardinham and Nanstallon schools.
Prospects for 2017
In this opening period of my ministry here, I am spreading myself across the team in order to get to know people and circumstances. I am also working with our clergy and readers to determine how best to allocate responsibilities. We are testing some ideas with an eye to supporting major development in our mission. As we enter into 2017, we should have sufficient experience and understanding to adopt a clearer long-term pattern.
I am particularly concerned to maximise the use of our buildings, both for the purposes of mission and to increase revenue. Somehow we have to turn our church buildings and halls into prosperous assets rather than impoverishing liabilities. This may be an opportunity for which we could seek some support and investment from the wider Church of England. At the same time, we shall undertake a stewardship campaign in which we can all feel confident that our financing can be sustainable.
I hear enough stories to realise that many people around us have in the past been members of our churches, but are no longer so. I believe that with good preparation, we could undertake a successful ‘back to church’ initiative. We will want to be confident that our services are engaging, our welcome warm and our churches comfortable.
The Bodmin Team Ministry offers many opportunities and challenges. I am finding this role of Oversight Minister very stimulating and hopeful. I trust that when I report back to you after 6 months here, we may all find reasons to be optimistic. I hope we can draw fresh involvement and energy to be God’s people in this part of Cornwall.
Do please come back to me with your thoughts about our mission and ministry here, and with ideas for the future. We are all in this together. Thanks and best wishes.