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Moving on together in faith

by Michael Ford last modified 25 Jun, 2021 02:36 AM

Bishop Karen has told Diocesan Synod that we are in “challenging times” and it would be remiss of us to considered this time of Vacancy in any way as "business as usual".

The Bishop, who will be acting Bishop of Salisbury during the Vacancy in See, likened her new role to that of being at the helm of a ship:

"I said to a few people that my aim is to steer a steady ship in the months to come, but this is no Sunseeker Yacht - with one person steering and everyone lying out on deck enjoying themselves, this is more a traditional sailing ship where all hands are needed on deck."

Making it clear she was totally committed to her new role, the Bishop reflected to Synod members that there were challenges facing the local church, as well as the Diocese, with the main task facing us at a local level being inhabiting our post-Covid churches.

"We are feeling our way, a step, or perhaps weekly at a time. What do things feel like? How are we regrouping? Who will join us or not join us? And that all takes energy," she said.

"Then there is the larger task of in all of that discerning where God is at work in new ways and old ways and joining in. That may well be very different to how things have been before. It may involve honest consolidation. It will mostly be outside our buildings as we seek to continue to bring about community transformation, for the sake of God's Kingdom.

"And we cannot do this alone, we are all required with others to discern what appropriate patterns of being church are needed for each context in which we find ourselves. This will take pragmatism and it will take some creativity," she told Synod members, who were meeting by Zoom.

She said she had been really encouraged to meet people who have been drawn into the Church and deeper in faith over the course of the last year, and to see an increase also of those considering different forms of service and ministry, adding that there was a challenge at local level “to continue moving people on in faith through nurture through discipleship and vocation.”

Bishop Karen said that, as part of our wider Diocese, the Board of Finance and Board of Education were creating "supportive structures to resource and enable what is happening on the ground, and this is where the Mission and Pastoral Plan comes in." (Click here to view it)

She added positively:

"Whilst we can do a great deal without money, we can do a lot more with it!"

She stressed that developing financial stability and affordable ministry must be a key objective:

"Which is why, alongside this, we need to make plans the reshaping ministry changing boundaries shifting resources to respond to the local church with creativity and realism."

Stressing the importance and the real gift of the interconnectivity between the local church and the wider Diocese, which is the sum of its parishes, Bishop Karen said the autumn Generous Giving Campaign (click here) was "Vital". This was not only to maintain levels of stipendiary clergy, which in some places “may need to change” but would also "enable us to resource new things.”

She also said this was key to help the sharing out of our resources from those “areas of plenty” in the Diocese to those in real need.

She added that "dialogue and listening together will be important", because "there may well be hard choices to make". But these were best made when "all the facts are laid out and everyone who needs to be involved is" - something she was confident we as a Diocese could do well.

Finally, she stressed the need for "prayer and care" and used a prayer from the Marriage Liturgy to set the tone: “be tender with each other's dreams and healing of each other's wounds.

"The Bible says, without vision, the people perish. So, let us not stop dreaming dreams during the reimagining."

However, she reminded members:

"Moving on also takes an honesty about how we are, an admission of the fact that we cannot do it all in our own strength and how much we need God's help.”

She said as a Diocese we are moving on together in faith - "Renewing Hope, as we go and making a difference to all those we meet."

You can watch Bishop Karen's presentation to Synod in full here.

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