A dogged focus on values

I’m looking forward to the next session of the St Peter’s group that is working on identifying values that we discern are important to us as a church for the future. This is the work we’ve been developing with Laurence Gamlen of CPAS since a ‘brainstorming’ session across the church leadership during the ‘great snow’ earlier in the year. Personally, I am finding it an awe-inspiring and humbling experience to be part of the small group that has been charged with the task of discerning God-given values that are specific to us, and will need to taught, shared and lived by a whole church community in the coming years.

I therefore found this post from Bishop Alan a real encouragement and inspiration today. It first grabbed my attention because it talks about the NHS Trust in which I gave birth to our son in ’97 – at Heatherwood in Ascot (on a sunny race day in February). But I kept reading because of the evident enthusiasm for values driven leadership – and his clarity that these people who were living out values were

interested in the unvarnished truth… [showing] just workmanlike pragmatism, and a dogged focus on values… [Bishop Alan goes on to say…] if you stick with your values and resist cutting corners, in the end, you will do a better job. That takes real courage and, dare I say it, faith. I wish some churches felt freer to be honest about what’s not working, more rigorous in not cutting corners and tolerating crapada.

These are thoughts I think we will need to share and hang on to (if necessary by our fingernails, but preferably with a firm grip) if St Peter’s is going to become a values driven church.

Last time we met, our little group at St Ps reminded ourselves that we should be praying/expecting the values we discern will challenge behaviours and cause structural as well as personal transformation of St. Peter’s – obviously something that Bishop Alan saw being lived out at Wexham Park. That’s going to be the really tough bit – our work is only just beginning. Laurence keeps reminding us that it will mean that we will constantly have to measure what we plan against the values we decided upon. He uses the word ‘intentional’ a lot – living out our values as a community will mean a lot of concentration on the content of all our words and actions, before we say/do them.

FWIW so far we’ve looked at our

  • Outward focus (how we want our relationships with those outside the church to be) and come up with the word ALONGSIDEDNESS (lousy English but it seemed to sum up a load of words like: Welcoming, Accepting, Unconditional love, Non-judging, Openness, Honesty, Attentive, Supportive)
  • Upward focus (how we want our relationship with God to be) and came up with the phrases like TIME FOR GOD AND OTHERS and ENCOUNTER THAT TRANSFORMS
  • Inward focus (how we want to develop a more intimate fellowship) and are working around characteristics like
    Loving, Welcomed, Cared for, Listened to, Encouraged, Time (again!), Generosity, Trusted, Friendly, and Support – the idea of SANCTUARY also seems important. What we need to find is a word or phrase that encompasses these… I’m praying and thinking about the phrase GRACE-FULL?
Crucifix on the Screen at All Saints Basingstoke

My thoughts around my recent sermon on forgiving are that we are all frail humans who have a tendancy to fail, and that learning to forgive each other for the lash-ups we make along the way (in part because we are all individuals with different personalities) is going to be a key tool to progress – part of that “unvarnished truth” that Bishop Alan talks about. I wonder how FORGIVING becomes part of the living out of a set of values, or whether it is indeed a value in itself?

Me thinks that possibly looking at the cross gives us the answer.



    • I am certainly happy for you to link through to me, and will go off and find you on Facebook. I am looking forward to continuing the journey with Laurence, but very aware that the road we walk is a difficult one in which we need to open to God, both for guidance and for the strength to see it through so that he receives the glory!


  1. Bishop Alan kindly responded to my question on his blog post about forgiveness in the context of values – do follow the link and scroll down, but for those with limited time here is what he said:

    “ramtopsrac, thanks for raising a really fundamental question in any organisation — forgiveness and the way failure is handled. Whilst I don’t know the answer, the people I met would, and I wish I’d asked!

    If had to extrapolate a answer from what was said, I think it would be something like “each falure matters in its own particular way to particular people. The whole system is there to make sure indicidual failures do not scupper the whole any more than is inevitable. A strong values ethos combined with pragmatism breeds humility and realism when things go wrong. I imagine some staff find it easier to forgive than others! and to be forgiven!

    Really healthy churches can really show a new way of responding to failure — but not so healthy ones are ften hung up on perfectionism and unrealistic expectations all round, perhaps.”


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