I had my first adventure into the life of our Parochial Church Council earlier this month. This was something I’d avoided in church life for the last 22 years – my only previous experience is as a co-opted youth member at Minstead in the 1980s (at the delicate age of 17/18!)
Now obviously this isn’t the sort of meeting shall share generally on the blog, but we had a guest speaker who I want to plug, because he was excellent, and I really hope that as a church we make use of some of what he shared with us. As we in St. Peter’s work at making sure that what was shared with us isn’t wasted, could this help others? I’m sure it can – I particularly thought of my placement parish at All Saints in Basingstoke whilst I listened to him, but also of our Mothers’ Union activities in the diocese. So there’s a bit of an outline and some (scary) thoughts below:
Revd Lawrence Gamlen is a Regional Leadership Development Adviser with CPAS (the Church Pastoral Aid Society). Revd Gamlen was talking to us about how we should seek to identify the values that St. Peter’s holds, and wants to hold, as part of the process of working out how to “do church” in Yateley. What impressed me most was the lack of jargon he used and his clear presentation using a living example full of hope; when he finished I felt this was something we could put into practice.
Without wishing to steal all his talk, he made clear for me at least, some the confusion I had developed here: Wording a Vision He showed us clearly why a church (or other Christian community) needs to
- understand its identity (part of that is being CofE – in our case – and thus part of the “established” church with lines of authority and accountability that need to be accepted, but it also requires an understanding of what is unique to the specific church, the community and the circumstances of the time in which you operate). From a clear understanding of identity come
- purpose – and understanding of why you exist as a church in the areas of worship, fellowship, mission and faith
- values – what are going to be the characteristics of how you achieve your purpose and display your identity, thus foundational to getting everything else done.
I think the plan is that if you have a clear understanding of these three (identity, purpose and values), an understanding of what your vision (which Lawrence described as being ‘that which God already sees for you’) for the future should result relatively easily from the purpose, and feed your strategic and action plans as well as your review process.
Lawrence got us to think about the question “how do we do things round here?” and slightly more obliquely the question “does the way we do things meet Jesus’ expectations?” If we are doing things in ways which mean we can’t answer ‘yes’ to the second question, but this hasn’t been acknowledged, then the chances are there are are ‘elephants in the room’: things that haven’t been got out into the open, but which need to be acknowledged and set aside as inappropriate.
All this, and the business meeting that followed, left me with much to think about:
The purely human response is to run scared and wonder if its all worth the hard work, but I know if we don’t make the effort to do these things the effort we make Sunday by Sunday to live and preach the gospel of Jesus, is completely wasted. We not only have to make the time to help people in church leadership become clear as to the identity, purpose, values and vision if their church (by hard and difficult debate if necessary) but then those in leadership need to reinforce these with the integrity of their example, preaching etc., by constant repetition if necessary.
The temptation I suspect is to think that we can’t bear the cost of doing it – either in time, lost motivation to current tasks, emotions or relationships (broken and/or mended) – it is certainly what worries me.
But I think the question that Revd Gamlen would ask, is “can we really bear the cost of not doing it?”….. because JESUS DID!