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Monastic model for the future of the parish

by
18 October 2013

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From Canon Bryan Pettifer

Sir, - The Revd Stephen Spencer (Comment, 11 October) is surely right in emphasising that, though the parish may evolve through various institutional forms, the part played by oversight is crucial. The ministry of the abbot of a monastery is not, however, the primary instance of such oversight which we should consider.

At every induction of a new incumbent, the Bishop utters to him words such as "Receive your cure and mine," implying a delegation of oversight from the Bishop to the incumbent. In the 1990s, as numbers of stipendiary clergy were reducing, it was widely realised that a paradigm shift in the ministry of the stipendiary clergy was quietly taking place.

The growth of self-supporting ministry and local ordained ministry, and the multiplication of lay ministries, meant that the task of the stipendiaries changed from being expected to deliver most of the ministry to overseeing others in ministry. Oversight in this context will entail recognising people's gifts and talents, discerning their potential, building up their confidence, equipping them for their specific ministries, enabling and guiding them, supporting and sustaining them, and maintaining appropriate discipline and standards.

The need for this change was recognised by the House of Bishops as it reviewed clergy numbers and deployment in the mid-1990s, when stipendiary numbers were falling quite significantly. Many dioceses produced ministerial strategies to take account of this shift. Almost two decades later, some important questions need to be asked.

Has this evolution of ministerial strategy been maintained across the Church of England? As a fresh generation of bishops has taken over, have they held to this strategy for ministry in their dioceses? Have the senior staff of dioceses developed the support and in-service training needed by stipendiary clergy to equip them for their changing work?

Are the training institutions preparing ordinands for a ministry very different from that exercised in previous generations? What pro- ress has been made in changing what congregations expect of their clergy?

BRYAN PETTIFER
23 Curlew Drive
Chippenham SN14 6YG

 

From the Revd Martin Cox

Sir, - It has been interesting to reflect on some of the contents in the Church Times (11 October). Readers were presented with news on clergy stress levels (page 7), the viability of parishes and churches, owing to changing patterns of ministry (page 14), and a further reference in the new Pilgrim material in your features section to the lack of nurture courses, which is referred to as a "scandal" (page 20).

It seems to be that there is an urgent need for us to pray for the gift of discernment so that we can understand the signs of the times that we are living in. These three issues alone must, surely, be inter-connected in other ways besides being in the same issue of your newspaper.

We also need to pray for the grace of God to enable us to respond appropriately to the opportunities and challenges of the age, which will include reshaping ministry for mission. This, in turn, will require us to be people of hope and encouragement, as well as people of wisdom and insight.

MARTIN COX
Chorley Rectory, Rectory Close
Chorley PR7 1QW

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