Parish Review Update by Rev’d Jonathan Gale

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Acts 16: 16 – 34

Revelation 22: 12 – 14, 16 – 17, 20 – 21

John 17: 20 – 26

It is time to let you all know where we are with the Parish Review.

Which reminds me: on Thursday it was Ascension Day. The disciples were concerned because Jesus was leaving them. What they had securely held to for the last 3 years was removed from them. The situation they had got used to was changing.

Jesus understood their feelings and told them plainly in John 14, 18 ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. But very quickly, and before the realisation that he really was going away could set in, he says, 6But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.

What Jesus in the flesh; capable of being in one place at one time, could do; the Holy Spirit could multiply in any number of places through the disciples. It was time to grow up.

I know I feel slightly nervous about change sometimes. You know it carries a whole kete full of blessings but nonetheless you’re slightly uncertain. That is human, and understandable. However, the truth remains, that those disciples who were there to embrace the Holy Spirit when the Holy Spirit came, were emboldened and indeed ‘comforted’ beyond expectation. God has a way of surprising us like that.

With that thought, on to the Review.

As you are aware, the Archdeacon tasked with Parish Reviews, the Ven Sarah Moss, provided us all with the opportunity to feed back on a whole spectrum of issues regarding the life of the Parish. The questionnaire and the software tools for assessing it were designed by a consultancy professionally qualified to conduct these processes, and this showed in the remarkable manner in which it was able to draw together a variety of parishioner opinions into the crux or the nub of what best reflected where people were at as regards the life of the Parish.

Sarah then met with the Wardens before the findings were taken to a public meeting in the hall and people were again given the opportunity to express their opinions.

All this resulted in a 56 page document, mainly choc-a-bloc with statistics that the review had generated, but especially important, with a now well-thumbed  Draft Mission and Ministry Plan. This Plan was designed in terms of the four generic categories the review had assessed, namely:

  • KNOWING GOD (inspiring worship, vibrant faith and prayerful life)
  • SHAPING COMMUNITY (authentic loving community, stewardship and governance)
  • GROWING IN CHRIST (maturing discipleship, gift-oriented ministry, empowering leadership)
  • (relevant outreach and proclaiming the Gospel)

It also contained, within each of these categories, goals, action steps, outcomes, and finally, a section labelled “oversight”.

It was Vestry’s job, then, to select the critical goals for the foreseeable future and both to establish and staff a series of Working Groups who would expand upon and implement them.

So, there are 4 work streams but 5 Working Groups were created, as the Living Beyond Ourselves element/stream of work had 3 distinct areas of focus and required a working group each for 2 of them. The third element was preaching the Gospel and the Vicar took responsibility for that.

I suppose that because over a third of the “Stop This” comments (that is the things people wanted us to stop doing) were about music, at a meeting with the Bishop and two of the Archdeacons, it was strongly suggested that we look at making sweeping changes to the music. We are being more cautious than that. We are taking an approach that is inclusive of all aspects of and styles of worship. We need to be careful that we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

We are also taking the professionals’ advice and NOT following a preference-based approach, namely, negotiating an approach between parties. That smacks of politics (what St Paul calls a ‘party spirit’ – and he wasn’t thinking of beer and skittles) and never satisfies anyone. The process provides for Vestry-appointed groups who determine the course of events as best they know how under God’s guidance.

The Archdeacon pointed out that in terms of the statutes the Vicar was not required to get Vestry approval for things to do with worship, but I feel Vestry input is important, at least in this process.

There are a number of other principles followed in crafting worship (including variety and flexibility) and a combined meeting of 3 of the Working Groups, along with the Wardens and the Worship Committee have been beavering away at implementing these. The 8am service will remain unaffected but the recent 10am Harvest Festival service on 10 May and the 10am Pentecost service on 9 June provide a taste of what is to come.

I am feeling extremely positive about how things are developing both because of the skilful manner in which the process crystallised parishioner concerns in desired objectives, and because of the manner in which the various bodies involved are progressing the achievement of these objectives.

Because 3 of the working groups are working closely together around worship-based matters we should not lose sight of the fourth group, chaired by Trudy Warin, namely the Living Beyond Ourselves Working Group. That group, has done wonderful work in promoting the cause of the City Mission and I hope we can each of us get on board on Patronal Festival Sunday on 30 June when Chris Farrelly will be here as our guest speaker at the 10am service and the lunch we will be sharing in the hall.

It’s a work in progress. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, however, if any of you (and this offer has been made before) would like a copy of the Draft Mission and Ministry Plan please email Mandy and she’ll send you one.

This was never going to be an exciting talk. These things are characterized by hard work, not excitement. The excitement will come as we enjoy the new dynamic in (especially worship) and as we focus our energies outward in support of the City Mission and later in the year in learning to share our faith.

It was when the disciples waited in expectation and then opened themselves to the Holy Spirit that their nervousness changed to joy and confidence. I’d like to suggest that the same applies to the measures we are taking to implement the findings of the Parish Review: expectation, openness and finally engagement.

God bless you all