Enabling One Another

by Michael Ford last modified 03 Jul, 2019 06:08 PM

"As we face the challenges of our journey ahead, instead of asking the question 'How can we?', may we affirm the statement instead and say 'We will, ordained and lay together, enable one another to live out the Good News of Jesus.'"

That was the charge from our Diocesan Synod Lay Chair Gillian Clarke, who has been reflecting on her visit to the National Conference of Diocesan Lay Chairs and how the national thinking was reflected in our own reviews.

Speaking to the joint meeting of Lay Chairs and Rural Deans, Gillian spoke about the Church of England's 'Setting God's People Free', with its new language of everyday faith, was mirroring well what this Diocese is attenmpting through our 'Renewing Hope: Pray Serve Grow' ethos.

Reminding the group of the statistic that show that 98% of people in CofE are not ordained and spend 95% of life out in society (not in church), Gillian said:

"One of the aims of SGPF is to enable the whole people of God to life out the Good News in everyday life with confidence. What an opportunity!"

She also quoted from the 'Resourcing Sunday to Saturday Faith' repoprt by the Central Council of Readers:

"It argues that 'the problem is that we have forgotten how to tell our story — or, to put it another way, we have only been telling part of the story.'

"And it goes on to warn that "people will not start to listen because we shout louder or use better social media or more modern music. They will take notice when the Christian they know . . . clearly lives by a different story, and is ready to tell them the story when they ask.""

She said that the Conference key note speaker Rachel Treweek, Bishop of Gloucester, had quoted Stephen Cottrell Bishop of Chelmsford, when she said we should all be "living and sharing a Jesus-shaped life" and that she spoke about the importance of "BEING church not DOING church."

She said this all directly linked with the comment from Bishop John Gladwin's Report on Renewing Hope:

"At our conference we faced some challenging statements and questions - 'It’s easy to think we’re doing change when actually we’re trying to do it within the existing system.'

"And Bishop John referred to the temptation to think that a few more clergy and numbers, and all will be well.

"We also reflected on how 'Change doesn’t always mean innovation'. The Church is a landscape of varied configurations, but we tend to see the inherited church as primary and other ‘Fresh Expressions’ as add-ons.

"So how do we see chaplaincies, Café Church, Messy Church, or school worship as equally valid? Archdeacon Alan Jeans used language to great effect recently when he encouraged us to think of church schools as school churches – a significant and telling change in perspective!"

And she said this led to another "key question we have been addressing":

"Another speaker at our conference was John Spence, Chair of the Archbishop’s Board of Finance and he also raised the question of how we measure success.

"Weekly attendance at church is the traditional measure, but this should not take precedence. Instead we should maybe look at people we are touching – people whose lives we are touching by living out the gospel.

"He noted that there are 33,000 projects throughout the church which have a social impact. But he also acknowledged that that alone is not enough to turn things round in terms of the declining church.

"Finance is a real issue – John Spence said never before had he heard so much concern about the financial situation. He was quite clear that the church needed to explore other sources of funding."

"So here we are today at our annual meeting of Rural Deans and Lay Chairs. We have been led by David this morning in the continuing discussion about how we respond to Bishop John’s report, how we tackle the challenges ahead.

"I do want to acknowledge what I see as a great strength - the real collegiate style of working here in Salisbury. In all the committees on which I serve, all the meetings I attend, clergy and laity work together.

"We all have different strengths and gifts which we can offer to each other. We are partners. We are on a journey together.

"Which brings me back to that first question: 'How can we,ordained and lay together,enable one another
to live out the Good News of Jesus?'

"Well, this 'golden thread' of empowering lay people and encouraging and enabling ordained and lay people together to work as partners in mission is very clearly there in our ‘Renewing Hope' vision to Pray, Serve and Grow.

"It’s a clear recommendation in Bishop John’s report.

"We can see this approach being developed through for example 'Rural Hope' - the appointment of our Field Officers and the introduction of the Mission Oversight Groups which Bishop Karen has updated us on.

"But as we face the challenges of our journey ahead, instead of asking the question 'How can we?', may we affirm the statement instead and say 'We will, ordained and lay together, enable one another to live out the Good News of Jesus.'"

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