Synod tackles challenges of a changing ministry

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The role of ministry and how it is changing through the advent of ministry areas was the topic of today’s clergy synod in Llandrindod’s Holy Trinity Church.

The day was led by Rev Dr David Heywood, the director of pastoral studies at Ripon College Cuddeston, who has spent the past 11 years teaching ordinands in the Church of England.

Rev David said: “I have been teaching and thinking about ministry for a good many years. Before I was at Cuddeston I was in parish ministry in the Church of England for 20 years.

“About four years ago Ripon was approached by the Diocese of Monmouth to devise a course of training for their ministry area leaders. Along with my colleague Janet Williams I developed that course to help participants learn the new leadership skills needed to coordinate much larger areas of ministry, but to place them in a theological framework with constant a focus on the mission God calls us to and how this is worked out in that context.”

He said he had been inspired by the Time is Now conference which took place in Llandudno in 2014, and the way in which the Church in Wales is responding to the crisis it faces.

 

Rev David posed questions of the audience, including what is a healthy church, how do the people of Wales see the Church in Wales, and what does the church have to offer those people.

He cited two case studies from ministry areas in Wales, the rural Bro Ardudwy in the Diocese of Bangor and the urban Cyncoed in the Diocese of Monmouth, demonstrating what can be be achieved when people work together.

“My reflections on what’s happening here are in general three aspects, three adjustments to the kind of ministry were most familiar with,” he said.

“First of all is the importance of focal ministry. Each congregation, whether it’s local or network-based, needs a ministry team with a local convener. In smaller churches it might just be one person, and in larger churches it may be shared with a small team, but it’s about somebody being the face of the church to its congregation and equally to its local community, providing a focal point, holding the vision and providing continuity.”

Rev David said change meant the end of the one-size-fits-all pattern of ministry.

“If you’re ordained, you’re going to have to be overseeing multiple congregations. Who is going to play the role of being the face of the church, being the focal point for that congregation? It might be an ordained person, it might be a church warden or an obvious lay person who everybody knows.

“The second is opening up specialist areas of ministry. If you’ve got somebody skilled in schools work, they can offer that gift across the whole ministry area rather than just one parish.

“And the same might be said for a the whole range of different aspects of ministry. Training and leading a pastoral care team, promoting discipleship learning, liaising with the local authority, heading up schools work, ministry to care homes or older people generally, youth work, administration.

“All these things can be specialist ministries offered across a wider area. Many of these roles can be and are being taken by lay people, whether full time or part time and they, too, will be members of the ministry team.

“The third is episcopal clergy, the idea we take on not only the presbyteral role, which we don’t abandon, of word and sacrament, not only the diaconal role of service, but also something of the episcopal role of oversight. Supervising, enabling and empowering to bring together, coordinate and enliven ministry of all of God’s people in that place.

“All the best literature these days on leadership is saying you can’t do it on your own, you need complementary gifts, levels of personal trust, and you need the shared vision of people able to buy into all of these to be part of that collaborative oversight exercised as a ministry team.”