Clearly not that much of SMC church life has been normal and parish-like in recent years - saying goodbye to two ecclesiastical buildings has emphasised a different 'calling' for the church. Since last Autumn we have begun to develop MSC's - communities of disciples in mission - an exciting adventure into a way of being and doing church that is off the usual familiar map. In fact at New Wine this Summer someone who didn't really know what we are doing as a church came up to me to share what she felt God had given her for me - simply the words: 'Off the map'. There is a map that CofE Christians are familiar with - a parish church with a building at the centre and lots of activities that attract others into the life of the church and hopefully relationship with Jesus. There is something of God's call on us as a church to go off that map - not saying that the old map is bad - just that we are called to go off it and that God is in this and for us.
To lay down the status of parish in the CofE is quite a challenge - through the Fresh Expressions initiative there has been some legislation (called a Bishops Mission Order - BMO) made to enable us to 'go off the map' whilst staying accountable, supported and encouraged by the CofE. The BMO has to have defined objectives and there needs to be consultation and the drafting of the Order which is what is happening at the moment. So far there have been Church Council discussions and votes in favour, church consultation meetings and a deanery presentation/meeting. Things are ongoing and developing. There are all sorts of implications.... the renaming of the church, the change of my status from Vicar (Priest-in-charge) to Pioneer Minister, the parish responsibilities moving to other churches, decisions regarding how we lead and manage the church simply yet accountably etc etc.
Do keep praying that we work these things out - that relationships remain trusting and open to the new thing and that the Lord will indeed provide all the provisions we need for going off the map. There aren't many (if any) churches in the CofE making this movement - to be off the map is a vulnerable place to be - so we want protection!
Here are the objectives of the mission order:
- To enable St Mary’s to function in non-geographical missional network across parish boundaries developing and planting Mission Shaped Communities (MSC’s).
- To define the place that St Mary’s occupies in relation to inherited and other expressions of church in the Harrogate Deanery as one of mission partnership.
- To focus St Mary’s fully on its distinctive vision and calling.
- To ensure that the pastoral care/occasional offices that will be required in
the Cold Bath Road/Harlow Hill area of Harrogate are taken care of through