Shaped by God Together

 

 

 

Back in August, and again in May, we wrote about the Shaped by God Together process being started in the Diocese of Leicester, of which we are a part.  The pandemic has hastened change, and rapid change, in our country and world. The church is not exempt from it effects, nor should it be as we do live in the real world. The Church of England was facing big time decisions before the pandemic and these are now highlighted. We’ve known this for a long time: many historic buildings that cost a lot to keep going yet are important as places of prayer and quiet for all; in many places faithful yet aging congregations who can’t see the way ahead; finances; fewer clergy; and yet God still alive and active. Questions arise such as ‘is the parish system still the way to be organised?’ The pandemic has hastened crunch time but these are questions which would have had to be wrestled with. Not just in Leicester Diocese but across the church.

In this diocese the issue has been sharpened as a result in a substantial drop in income last year. If you want to know more, then watch Bishop Martyn here in his address to Diocesan Synod in May https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbMyKgdBw_Y . It underlines the very urgent situation that needs to be addressed.

  During May and June, we have been giving feedback on 3 suggestions as to how church life might be organised in the future. If you want to read about that, then you can find it here  /content/pages/documents/sbgt-summary-models.pdf   We have held workshops to explain and to take feedback from all those who came – and many of you did come. The 4 Parochial Church Councils have also met to decide which of the 3 models they thought would work, and if they would work well. All our submissions have been submitted ahead of the June 21st deadline for making our views known.

   The process from here looks like this: all the replies will be read and collated. From that feedback, a model will be chosen to work up into full detail.  Bishop’s Council, Area deans and Lay chairs and the bishop's Senior Leadership Team all met last week to make choices. The meeting concluded that there are positive elements in both Model A (Minster) and Model B (mission area). Work will be done over the next 2 months to create a single model. That framework will be brought back to Bishop's Council befroe going to Diocesan Synod in October for a formal vote. Following that, our worshipping communities will be supported in exploring what the new framework will mean for them in coming years by a series of local conversations about how it can be applied locally to support their own vision and mission.

Bishop Martyn said: “I’m pleased that we’ve been able to take this significant next step on our journey of discernment. I have always been clear that this is a process in which the whole diocese needs to be involved and I am grateful to colleagues for facilitating this listening exercise. We clearly have more work to do to clarify the new framework and then explore with parishes how this can be implemented in their context, acknowledging that it will look different in rural, urban, and suburban areas. But we can be confident that God is reshaping us and God will strengthen us for all that lies ahead.

 

   As I write this, I long for us not to react in a downhearted way for God is faithful. I pray we can face change with confidence in Him. All is far from lost but a difficult time lies ahead as much that we hold dear may be challenged and yet we need to be open to new possibilities. I know the pain that many are feeling, the fear, as we face an unknown future and are unsure about how it will all work out. However it is God’s church and we need to be open to his guiding which may involve some upheaval for us personally.

A suggested prayer for this time:

Faithful one, whose word is life:

come with saving power to free our praise, inspire our prayer and shape our lives

for the kingdom of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Vivien Elphick July 13th  2021