Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Decisions and Status Going off the Map

Just before the Summer holidays we had a flurry of activity in regard to the discussions about the future of St Mary's. Our church council responded to the proposal made by myself and the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds that St Mary's starts the process towards becoming a Bishops Mission Order rather than a normal parish church.
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
    pastoral reorganisation.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Standing with others?

Yesterday we held our first Central Gathering of the season - every 2 weeks we gather together and in between we are developing our MSC's. Jeremy Clough from Harrogate Town Pastors spoke powerfully and movingly of the call to care (do we really care?), the impact of the woundings in our lives, the challenge to learn what devotion to the apostle's teaching, to the fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer really is... and do it.
At the heart of what Jeremy shared was this little insistent voice speaking of unity - being ONE church - ONE with each other - ONE church in Harrogate and beyond. Almost as an aside he mentioned Acts 1:14 "Then Peter stood up with the Eleven" - highlighting that Peter stood up with others - he had support, he was encouraged in what he was doing. To have people standing with us is so important and to be people who stand with others is also absolutely vital. Are you being 'stood with'? Are you 'standing up' with others? At the heart of our vision to release communities of disciples in the mission of Jesus is the idea of standing together - together we can make a difference. We will need to make sure we aren't standing in the way and that our own preferences and problems are not providing a barrier for others. We will need to be supporting the development of leaders who like Peter are called at particular times to stand and draw the attention of the people around them to Jesus and his work.