A Thriving Christian Presence in Every Community

by Michael Ford last modified 14 May, 2019 04:04 PM

At the recent Rural Deans residential, David Pain, our Diocesan Secretary worked with the clergy to look at what a thriving Christian presence in every community could look like by 2030.

They looked at how the wider external context of changes in society, the environment and economy, together with the distance between culture and Church, would have implications for mission and ministry in the future.

Speaking afterwards David said:

"Last week I spent two productive days with the Rural Deans at their annual residential. Among many interesting conversations, they developed ideas on what we need to attend to in our external environment as we work towards 2030.

"The conversation needs to continue, but we can already see some of the opportunities and challenges we face together.

"It was agreed that the Climate Crisis gave all of humanity a common challenge, as we face the future on our shared planet. With Christian values and a clear theological motivation to care for God’s earth we can be instrumental in contributing to positive change and courageous advocacy.

"In a culture where institutions are no longer trusted, gender identity is viewed differently and deference is no longer part of society, these and other aspects are areas of tension between culture and the Church. We need to think clearly about where we might need to adapt, and where we need to be counter-cultural.

"In turbulent political times, we must speak out against the rise of movements which seem to be against Christian values, including the rise of nationalism and the far right. There is an opportunity for the Church to be at the forefront of bridge-building after Brexit, assuming it happens.

"Social change with new house building, and the changing nature of schools which are consolidating into Multi Academy Trusts give great new opportunities for mission and ministry and a challenge to establish new relationships and work in new ways. In a multi-faith society there is an opportunity to work with others.

"We face inequality and social instability with a growing gap between rich and poor, between rural and urban, there is coastal deprivation. We are called to promote Kingdom values and social justice, recapture our mission to all people and minister to the marginalised.

"With an ageing population, the Church could lead the way in providing care that treasured the elderly instead of seeing them as a burden.

"We need to look at our models of ministry, mobilising lay people to tell their gospel story. With lower numbers of stipendiary clergy there would be a need to get away from the stereotypes of the respective roles of clergy and laity and look to a more collaborative ministry, lay and ordained.

"As a Diocese we also needed to create opportunities for people to give their time in more diverse ways. Being an office holder for 10 years is no longer attractive for many people, so more flexible ways to volunteer may be more popular."

David said that he had been particularly challenged by the question 'What part does the church play in helping community to exist?' and the need to think and pray more about this in a changing culture.

Christians are in many communities, not just their parish, including at work and online. Families are changing and opportunities to support prayer and reflection, worship and community are changing too. A thriving Christian presence may well look different in 2030 to the patterns we have been used to.

He said:
"These conversations are key to working together on our vision for the future; I look forward to continuing these conversations as I visit different parts of the diocese in coming weeks."

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