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A brief history of 'Renewing Hope'

by Michael Ford last modified 12 May, 2020 09:41 AM

A process of prayerful exploration, discernment and questioning.

Since his arrival as Bishop of Salisbury in 2011, Bishop Nicholas has engaged the Diocese in a careful and prayerful process of exploration and discernment. Through ‘Let Us Talk’ and through Deanery Visits, he invited the Diocese to explore who it is, where it is going and how God wants it to move forward.

This lead to the formation of a new Diocesan vision – Renewing Hope: Pray, Serve, Grow.

As part of his series of visits to every Deanery in the Diocese in 2015 he asked three questions:

  • “What do you pray for?”
  • “Whom do you serve?”
  • “How will you grow?”

These are simple but powerful questions. Renewing Hope has really caught on – there are many stories about how it has helped people plan, and renewed hope in practice at local level.

It was clear from the visits that no-one, including Bishop Nicholas, wants to manage decline.

The Diocese of Salisbury has some real strengths and signs of robust health: the second highest Church attendance in the country; support for the Church at the heart of community life from people of all faiths and none; church buildings better cared for than ever; some churches, of all types and traditions, growing numerically.

Yet, there are also challenges. As across the Church of England, the overall picture is of slow, steady, slippage in church membership. Recruiting for lay parish officers is getting more difficult in some places.

The average age of our clergy has risen and we have a significant ‘retirement bulge’ over the next 10 years: to maintain our current pattern of ministry, instead of the 120 priests we would expect to train between 2017 and 2027, we will need to train 180.

We are stepping out in faith, confident of becoming a Diocese that is growing in numbers, depth and impact. If we could move from the current position of slight decline in attendance of 0.7% per year, to slight growth of 1% per year, it would transform our capacity to serve our communities and profoundly renew our hope.


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