We have a duty to reflect

by Michael Ford last modified 26 Jun, 2019 12:10 PM

Bishop Nicholas told Diocesan Synod that by gathering together members had a "duty to reflect both on our Church life and the context in which we meet."

The Bishop reflected on an article in The Observer which had described the dynamics of Britain as a deeply divided nation:

"The starkest divide is age: 52% of over-65s feel optimistic about the future of the UK, contrasting with just 23% of under-34s."

Read the full text here

The Bishop asked:

"Is that the benefit of the wisdom of older age – well represented in our churches? When I was growing up most young people were optimistic and hopeful about the future of post-War Europe. We live in very different times."

He added that a lot has been made about the 3rd Brexit day being Halloween:

"It’s worth remembering that Halloween is the day when evil is recognised and put in its place. It gives way to All Hallows/ All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Our lives are held in God’s and we live in response to that love whatever the circumstances of our lives."

Looking at the work of the Diocese, Bishop Nicholas said that the whole Diocese was in the process of reviewing ‘Renewing Hope – Pray, Serve, Grow’ and what we can say to the wider society about finding and living with hope.

"A Church cannot just be about our own internal organisational issues."

"A healthy Church has balance and a varied ecology in which we all can thrive. To measure ourselves we have been using not a single issue but a ‘balanced scorecard’. Our God-given diversity means we are a mixture of theological traditions, different social groups, of varied abilities. It is a strength that gives balance and helps us find that unity which is in Christ."

He said that as Synod reflected on the 2018 Annual Report, "There is a lot to give thanks for across the Diocese as a whole and in our 452 parishes, 148 new worshipping communities and 196 Church schools and academies."

He then spoke to Synod about the Bishop John Gladwin Review, which he said was "really helpful to have experienced external eyes to help us gather and think through the evidence of what is happening and how we might respond."

"Some principles are emerging. Of course we need to match resources and reality against our hopes and ambitions. I like the focus on ‘going local’ but how does that work out in practice?"

The Bishop said that a Lot is going well:

"We really do have a presence in every community and often it is a thriving presence. We need to keep alert to the number of new houses being built, often creating substantial new communities among us. How do we minister to people who are moving in and how do we engage them as partners and fellow members in the body of Christ?"

But he also gave Synod a question:

"Fair share numbers are dropping in the Diocese as a whole but this is not true in every parish. Are we measuring what really matters and how do we match finance with people and task?”

"We set ourselves the task of increasing the number of vocations to ministry, both lay and ordained. There has been considerable success in developing lay leadership and an astonishing number of people are committed to serving Christ in this way.

And he said ordinations were also increasing:

"In 2020 we expect to hit the target that we set ourselves of an almost 50% increase with 15 people to be ordained deacon, 11 stipendiary and 4 Associate."

But he noted:

"We still find it difficult to find office holders in parishes."

Commenting on the Review process, the Bishop said:

"David Pain, our Diocesan Secretary, has developed a really helpful longer view, 'lengthening our stride' so that we have a 3 year financial plan and a 10 year vision. This feels more manageable and is better stewardship. We can make adjustments whilst holding to direction."

He also spoke on the Growing Faith initiative that has been set by the House of Bishops to ensure a national commitment to achieve a significant culture change within the Church of England:

"so that every aspect of mission and ministry is seen through the lens of what it means for ministry with children, young people and households. It will flow into the type of relationships encouraged between schools and churches, and how these are developed to resource and support households to grow in faith together.

"It is about how, as members of the whole people of God, children and young people are encouraged and how the whole Church is equipped to think inter-generationally.

"This has really caught our imagination and we think will be helpful."

He told Synod that our Director of Education, Joy Tubbs "has agreed to be our champion for this."

The Bishop reminded Synod members of the depth and scope of the Past Cases review that is underway in the Diocese and said due to the complicated nature of the research:

"We do not expect there to be any conclusions before the end of the year."

He said that while Bishop John Gladwin’s Review had said the Diocese was certainly not in crisis:

"There are some difficult issues that need to be dealt with.

"One of the things we were reminded of in some work done with Veronica Hope-Hailey, Dean of the Management School in Bath, and an incredibly helpful adviser in the early stages of our Renewing Hope – Pray, Serve, Grow was the importance of trustworthy leadership. Her research shows that you can deal with difficult issues best when leadership demonstrates Ability, Benevolence, Integrity and Predictability.

"That will be useful to the Church in what I continue to think of as God’s small miracle of the Diocese of Salisbury but it might be useful to the nation in which we live and serve."

You can read the whole of Bishop Nicholas’s presidential address here.

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