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Church in Wales Governing Body: Presidential Address Interaction

26 April 2024

Church in Wales

Dr Heather Payne (Llandaff)

Dr Heather Payne (Llandaff)

“INTERACTION with the President about his Address” was the agenda item immediately after the Archbishop of Wales delivered his address on the Wednesday (News, 19 April).

Given Archbishop John’s emphasis on the collegiality of mission and ministry areas, Susan Henley (St Davids) asked how he saw collegiality working and developing — in particular, what changes were being made to clergy training to support the new emphasis?

Clergy isolation was one of the big challenges, he responded. Ministry areas were bringing people together, with a larger reach and more conversation and conferring. It was about the charisms of the many, he said, and commissioned ministries remained “embryonic in the life of our Church”.

Picking up that nobody had apparently spotted the financial crisis of 2008, which the Archbishop had mentioned in his address, the Dean of Newport, the Very Revd Ian Black (Monmouth), asked how the Church should check out the narrative that it was living by as a Church: “Is it rooted in Christian vision? How do we make sure we’re not deluding and bolstering ourselves?”

Archbishop John reiterated the importance of data, “so that what we say about ourselves can be backed up”. The Church Growth Fund demonstrated the need for mechanisms and checks to confirm whether it was making a difference: “Data with which we can benchmark. We’ve not had to do that in the same way before. It’s the start of redefining how we remain consistent to shared objectives.”

The Revd Professor Jeremy Duff, Principal of St Padarn’s Institute, assured the meeting that teamwork was one of the six main criteria in selection and report-writing. It was a major part of training, to the extent that half the main input of the forthcoming residential was focused on team working. “The comparison would be that we spend a lot of time teaching people to preach, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all good,” he said. He acknowledged: “It’s a long agenda.”

The Revd Richard Wood (Bangor) asked how ultimately ready the Church in Wales was to being a risk-taking Church, “learning from our mistakes”. The degree to which it was prepared to break new ground was a mark of that preparation to be more adventurous, the Archbishop said. In the coming year, he would be “engaging more with the archdeacons, and widening the circle of those whose vision will help shape both the culture and the decision-making process.”

Dr Heather Payne (Llandaff) thought the address to be “the grit in the oyster”. Reflecting on how the Church should get ahead of the curve, she said, “We are not a business but we have to be businesslike and flexible to deal with unanticipated things . . . to be reflective of our core business and also to capitalise on our USP — the certainty of our great reward.” She asked, “How do we use our assets and develop our skills to serve people who don’t know their need?”

The Archbishop reflected that the pilgrims on the North Wales path, in the BBC’s latest Pilgrimage series, had shown “extraordinary openness and a deep willingness to engage. My charge would be, how can we learn to talk God well? Not a false narrative, but in a way that is profoundly authentic.”

The Archdeacon of St Davids, the Ven. Paul Mackness (St Davids), highlighted the regulatory requirements now needed on all fronts, and wanted to know how the Church planned to identify administrators to deal with that. The Archbishop agreed that the need was there, and that there weren’t enough: “We are working on it.”

The Revd Kate O’Sullivan (Monmouth) took her example in all this from a background in health and social care: a culture “where we share together”.

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