A PROGRAMME used by the Church Mission Society (CMS) to encourage churches to make greater mission efforts in their parishes has been praised by an independent assessment.
The TI Group has evaluated CMS’s use of the Partnership for Missional Church (PMC) project, which began in 2011. It has now been taken up by 82 churches across four dioceses.
The report finds that the venture has been successful in encouraging churches to reach out to parishioners and spread their faith. Ninety per cent of churches said that they had begun new partnerships with people outside the congregation.
Seven in ten of those surveyed reported that the PMC had had a significant or very significant impact on their discipleship, while more than three-quarters (76 per cent) said that they had taken on new posts or responsibilities, either in the church or in the community, such as becoming a school governor or joining a homelessness initiative.
The executive leader of CMS, the Revd Philip Mounstephen, said that now was the time for the PMC. “That’s why we want to see its ‘holy habits’ practised as widely as possible across England, certainly, but beyond it, too, and definitely not just in Anglican churches.”
He described it as “a way of reconnecting with our God and with the world to which he sends us, that together we may all experience the healing and health of the Kingdom of God”.
CMS says that the PMC — which was originally developed nearly 40 years ago — is a “theological process designed to take churches on a spiritual journey in which they discover what God is doing in their context, and what God’s preferred and promised future is for that church and community”.
In the first year of the three-year programme, the church examines its context, history, and relationships with the community, before, in the second year, beginning to experiment with making new partnerships “to address common concerns with Christian faith at the heart of the intervention”.
In the third year, the church creates documents that set out what it believes God’s vision to be for the future of its locality, and then holds itself accountable to working towards this. Throughout the process, churches meet in clusters with those who are also going through the programme near by.
At the heart of the initiative are six “holy habits” that parishioners are expected to grow into: dwelling in the word, dwelling in the world, announcing the Kingdom, hospitality, spiritual discernment, and focusing on missional action.
The process has been found challenging. The Rector of St Wilfrid’s, Wilford, in the diocese of Southwell & Nottingham, the Revd Phil Marsh, said: “I’ve found the process tremendously difficult: on one level because it was really de-skilling. I know how to make events happen, I know how to organise people, I can do that. Leading people in spiritual practices that actually shape their missional living is kind of new.”
A Reader at St Wilfrid’s, Densel Davy, said: “We thought that we were a church for the community, but when we started the process we discovered we were living in a cocoon.”
The report has identified a few areas for improvement by CMS: the amount and impenetrability of “jargon” needs to be reduced; and the scheme must not leave those leading the process feeling isolated.