THE Head of Life Events for the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England, Canon Sandra Millar, introduced the Archbishops’ Council’s work on life events.
Life events used to be called Occasional Offices, she said. The meaning of “occasional” had changed, and life events were extremely important: when a child arrives, a marriage begins, and when a life ends. The language of “life events” represented a change in thinking.
It was important to care about life events enough so that people came to church for them, she said.
Life events were important for the people that were met at them: warm contacts and wider contacts.
“Warm contacts” were people who could actually be spoken to at life events. She said that there were 2478 weddings in Wales in 2017, where clergy could at least speak to the couple.
At funerals, there were at least three people to speak to: the surviving relatives. At baptisms, there were six people to speak to: parents, godparents, and a child. This amounted to 56,248 people a year who could be definitely spoken to, mostly in the age group 18 to 40. There were a further 800,000 wider contacts at life events in Welsh churches in 2017, she said.
“Imagine if we spent the same energy engaging people at funerals as we do when they turn up to a carol service.” These 800,000 people each had different stories and different journeys.
There were three main insights that had been gleaned from the Archbishops’ Council’s work on life events, she said: confidence in the Church being needed and valued; the relationship between the Church and those coming to it — “it is about the soft stuff, not the hardware”; and, finally, it was about courage and conviction in evangelism.
Canon Millar said that the new life-events approach was making a difference: two-thirds of parishes said that there had been an increase in families who engaged with the Church. She said that she would help the Church in Wales to cast a vision, through the training of ordained and lay ministers; giving resources; and developing campaigns, including “Just Ask”.
Paul Murray (Swansea & Brecon), a retired funeral director, said that the Church should bear in mind the relationship between ministers and funeral directors, which was crucial.
The Revd Dean Roberts (Monmouth) urged dioceses to put in place programmes to continue with evangelism through life events.
Susan Rivers (Llandaff) spoke of the work of the Mothers’ Union (MU). She urged members to think about the MU beyond the stereotype.
The Revd Richard Wood (Bangor) said that his MU was leading the follow-up with baptismal families, and bringing wedding couples together.
The Revd Josh Maynard (St Davids) said that he was encouraged by the emphasis on having the confidence to proclaim the Gospel.
The Archdeacon of St Asaph, the Ven. Andrew Grimwood (St Asaph), said that if evangelism and life events were a priority, members of the clergy could and would make the time.
Susan Last (St Asaph) said that lay people were not being used as much as they should in contributing to life-events ministry.
Jonathan Shepherd (Llandaff) said that baptism constituted early-life support, and was the beginning of a journey.
The following motion was passed nem. con:
That the Governing Body:
1. note the significant contribution Canon Millar’s work offers in relation to life events; and
2. urge the dioceses of the Church in Wales to ensure every Ministry and Mission Area develops compelling strategies, using the resources provided, to ensure care and support for those who seek the Church’s ministry is offered professionally and with commitment.