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Collaborative ministry — a refrain for decades

08 August 2014


From the Revd Jeremy Fletcher

Sir, - As a former management consultant, the Revd Brian Cranwell (Comment, 1 August) will be all too familiar with the description of his profession as those who borrow your watch to tell you the time. But his analysis of Church of England clergy as untrained for working collaboratively smacks of his borrowing a timepiece and telling us it is the 1950s.

I do not deny that there are some clergy, perhaps even some bishops, who feel ill at ease with the requirements to work in wider teams. The implication that this is because nothing has been done about this from within the Church needs to be challenged. My ordination training, nearly three decades ago, had the need to work collaboratively at its heart. We were assessed on our group work. We had even digested the Tiller report. Post-ordination training in the late 1980s considered models of team working, time management, and the enabling of the gifts of all. The parishes I served made much of lay leadership, including elderships, within the existing statutory structures.

I was prepared for my first incumbency by the offer of good resources for collaborative working. Through the 1990s, I was then part of a team that helped other ministry groupings to confront just the issues that Mr Cranwell raises. The diocese of York, with most others, has committed huge resources to a pattern of leadership training which has these matters front and centre, and is developing wider training for multi-parish ministry, which builds on long-established versions across the country.

Twenty-six years into ordained ministry, I am all too aware of the ways in which I still tend towards DIY benevolent dictatorship. Parish life still offers every opportunity to be a lone ranger. If Mr Cranwell offers some coaching and I am anywhere near, I will be first in the queue. But, for the past 30 years I have been required to reflect on this at every turn, and been given high-quality resources to work with, and I am grateful to those who have worked tirelessly to make it so.

Minster Vicarage, Highgate
Beverley HU17 0DN

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