A LIGHT-HEARTED double act was delivered by Lis Perkins (Bangor) and Nigel King (Swansea & Brecon) as they introduced the group work on the Church’s initiative 2020 Vision. “In some ways, we are starting the second half of a ten-year journey,” looking forward to the Church’s centenary year, Mrs Perkins said.
Mr King said that, halfway in, 2020 Vision had already achieved a great deal: the Governing Body adopted a new framework so that the Church’s resources could be fully exploited in 2013; and all dioceses now had a plan for mission reorganisation. St Padarn’s Institute had been established, and money set aside for mission.
Mrs Perkins asked how many in the Church had truly bought into the 2020 Vision: “I guess the bishops all believe in it, and most of the senior clergy, too. But bishops don’t make things happen. Committees and councils don’t make things happen. The implementation group cannot make this thing come alive. It’s only people in the parishes that will make this happen.” The initiative would only take off when churchpeople on the ground started thinking radically about how they could work together with other congregations to reach their communities.
Mr King admitted that he had heard people say that nothing would change, and that this new project would fizzle out. Their job, however, was to convince the Church that their situation was not hopeless. “But what is it that we are trying to do?” he asked. “We are all trying to turn outwards, and reach all age groups of people. We are all trying to release the energy in our congregations for ministry and mission. We are all trying to get as many parishes together, to do the things that cannot be done by individual congregations on our own. We are all trying to use the Church’s resources effectively for God’s Kingdom.”
The Governing Body then broke into small groups to discuss 2020 Vision, before returning to feed back their conclusions.
Canon Peter Brooks (Swansea & Brecon) said that his group concluded that 2020 Vision was a mixed bag. The more exciting things that were happening on the ground were not about structures and reorganisation: in one area, two churches that previously were not even able to share the Peace had recently shared use of a stepladder. “Small things,” he said.
Karen Stafford-Smith (Monmouth) said that the grassroots of the Church had a different picture of 2020 Vision than the hierarchy. “We don’t think the vision has been explained adequately.”
Canon Brian Pippen (Monmouth) said that the word “disconnect” came up a lot in his group. The shortage of clergy and number of churches meant that much of the Church was preoccupied with “keeping things going”, not a bigger vision. The disconnect between dioceses and province was especially marked when it came to youth work, he said.
The Revd Richard Wood (Bangor) described 2020 Vision as a “reality check and a kick up the bum. . . The vision has forced churches to face realities which had previously been denied.” It was also seen as a back door to closing churches and removing priestly ministry; so it was associated with a lot of fear in some areas. Furthermore, he asked, was it time for the Church to start focusing on 2030 Vision?
Susan Last (St Asaph) said that 2020 Vision had to be about more than just mission areas, and, rather, about engaging with the community and lay leadership. “Our congregations are confused. There is a lack of confidence; we need to use good stories, encourage, and be hopeful.”
The Revd Janice Brown (Bangor) said that a wholly clerical-led Church was a negative. “People are suspicious of new strategies, and see it as a way of closing their church and not building it up,” she reported. But there were good signs, too: larger churches were sharing resources with smaller ones, and across denominational divides, too. “People who don’t want change are holding us back, as is the model where it’s the vicar’s job to do everything.”
Jennie Willson (St Asaph) said that many people had never even heard of 2020 Vision. But it had changed how some congregations were focusing on their community, and nudged them to step outside of the church. “It’s a slow process, and is not going to happen immediately, but conversations are starting to happen.” There needed to be a campaign to lift some of the restrictions on listed buildings, as too many churches were unsuited for mission, but could be remodelled.
The Archdeacon of Meirionnydd, the Ven. Andrew Jones (Bangor) said that his group feared that local churches were not aware of 2020 Vision. Ministry areas were proving that smaller churches could take advantage of being part of a larger family, and work with larger churches. Conducting an audit of church buildings was useful, as they could be either a burden or a blessing. His group, which was made up of Welsh-speaking clergy, said that they preferred the idea of Welsh-language services rather than exclusively Welsh-speaking churches.
The Archdeacon of Newport, the Ven. Jonathan Williams (Monmouth), said that one person in his group had first seen the 2020 Vision logo only the previous day. Some were also concerned about a lack of clarity around pastoral reorganisation and structural changes. There could be more communication and sharing of best practice and good news. There were some ecumenical and interfaith partnerships developing, but not much of that was a consequence of 2020 Vision.
The Revd Jonathan Durley (Llandaff) said that the Vision could be too clergy-led, and needed to delegate more. His group had had mixed experiences with interfaith and ecumenical work, although great opportunities for this work did exist.
Mrs Perkins, who chairs the 2020 Vision implementation committee, thanked members of the Governing Body for their feedback. There were clearly good things happening, but not much under the 2020 Vision label. “And that’s fine,” she said. “It’s obviously a finite term: as we approach and pass 2020 there will be another title. We are owning these changes, and that’s important. We couldn’t agree more that things need to happen at grass-roots level.” The Representative Body had made money available to fund projects and new ideas: get out there and do it, she said.