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Enough room for the God of Surprises

by Michael Ford last modified 20 Nov, 2019 04:52 PM

"In going forward there also needs to be enough room for the God of surprises to do new things."

That was Bishop Karen’s message to the Diocese when she spoke to our Synod about all the work being undertaken as we refresh our Vision of Renewing Hope – Pray Serve Grow.

Bishop Karen said that as a Diocese we had been on a "journey of review."

She explained:

“Since the Renewing Hope Vision was adopted in around 2014, we set some mission and ministry priorities which we communicated in 2016. It was then agreed last year that it was time to review where we were as a diocese.”

She said that at a number of levels we have been able to draw up a vision which would enable us all to continue to renew hope where God has placed us and “to be the people that God called us to be, to be the communities which God wants us to be.”

She said that many people across the Diocese were feeding into this process of discerment:

"This has been discussed in deaneries, by this Synod, by our boards and committees, by our rural deans" and "gradually we are discencerning the areas as a Diocese we want to start to focus on."

She explained that as a Diocese “we wanted a vision which was succinct, understandable, which applied to all levels of our life together – life in the parish, life in the deanery, life in Church House, Salisbury and the Board of Education and with which we can all connect.”

Bishop Karen said that back in 2016 the Diocese had set 3 ministry priorities and these were developing disciples, nurturing vocations and sustaining ministry.

She said since then a lot of work had been done to resource these, but “there is still more to be done”.

She gave the example of sustaining ministry:

“This is interesting, because we have not been able to sustain the number of self-supporting ministers because fewer are coming forward, we have not been able to grow the number of Licensed Lay Ministers, because again God appears to be shaping things differently.

She said that in the last few years, "God’s call has increased the number of Lay Worship Leaders” and that "people are being called to a more entrepreneurial and pioneer ministry."

She explained:

“This is not about therefore keeping the show on the road in the way it has always been on the road. This is about doing things differently, about finding out where God is at work in the lives of our local churches and communities and joining in!”

She said that the development and funding of Rural Hope has shown us that there are new ways of working.

But she said it was also important to “review our financial sustainability“:

“Discipleship takes time, but those who we have relied upon to give regularly are decreasing. 'What should we pay for?' has become an important question. And this is forcing archdeacons and bishops to have strategic conversations within deaneries about priorities and resources, about challenges and opportunities.”

She said that there also been significant developments in our schools work. “Our churches are becoming community hubs, providing meals in the holidays to families, linking agencies, sharing with the schools in caring for the whole needs of our young people.”

She said the focus on what would be our priorities from 2020 onwards needed to respond to the call to serve the local church:

“We have needed to be realistic, about what God is doing and about what resources we have and how best they should be shared: How can we be sustainable, and what should we give priority to?

“We want to continue to have an impact, so how can we as a diocese be more effective?

“And then because the Holy Spirit tends not to just work through our plans, how can we create space for innovation, the new things of God?”

She introduced Synod to 3 areas that invited further focus - Discipleship and Evangelism, Collaborative Leadership and Transforming Lives and Communities.

She began with Discipleship and Evangelism, explaining:

“We need to continue to make connections, and share the good news and in doing so need help and encouragement at every level. Faith Sharing should be at the centre of all we do.

“People discipled into faith is a joy, but we all know that is not the end of the journey, again individuals finding faith, need help in understanding how to live a Christ filled life – affecting their giving, their living, their using their gifts and discovering their part in the body of the Church.”

She said the second area that had exciting possibilities was how we shape collaborative leadership in our Diocese.

“We searched for a challenging word here – 'confident' did not seem active enough, and so we agreed on 'Dynamic' Collaborative Leadership.

"This is leadership at all levels, encouraging and equipping children and young people in our schools to be the best they can be as leaders of the future; to work in our locality lay and ordained together, we may have different callings however there is a common task of being Church.”

On Transforming lives and communities she said “ultimately that is what we are called to do, to make a difference for Christ.”

Finally she said that transforming lives and communities needed to be at the heart of all we do:

“This is what mission is all about, making a difference. Our environmental work, our social action, our own spiritual lives of faith all contribute to this.”

Speaking about the ongoing work in these areas, she said:

“Because by hearing your own aspirations and vision, and getting the buildings blocks right, we have great possibilities ahead of us.

“In Proverbs we read: Many are the plans of a human heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that will prevail.

“In going forward there also needs to be enough room for the God of surprises to do new things. Flexible structures, swifter ways of working. And then we can have not only the possibility, but the expectancy of all of us growing in faith, in number and in impact, building a flourishing Christian presence in every Community.”

Bishop Karen's full presentation can be found here.

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