Archbishop William Temple famously said ‘“The Church is the only institution that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members”. This kind of thinking is hugely challenging because the truth is (or at least in my case) that a lot of the decisions, the way things are done, and what discussions are had, are wholly about what the members want. This doesn’t mean that our congregations don’t count, of course they do, I love mine dearly, but it does mean that our activity focus is on the sick who need a doctor; the one sheep who is lost; the coin overlooked in a dusty corner; those who have yet to discover just how much they matter.
Our resourcing church bid picks up on Archbishop Temple’s thoughts in that we are bidding to help us build the kind of church that faces outward so wholly that the light of Christ becomes an irresistible draw. That we plant for the benefit of those who are not yet part of the Church of God in this region.
To that end we have settled on a three strand approach:
Strand 1: An investment in five locations (Bishop Auckland, Stockton, Durham, Gateshead, and Washington) to enable the kind of exponential growth that will see each location becoming a beacon of hope. Each location has developed their own, context appropriate, plan and these plans include challenging things like growth targets which will be monitored. The plans were prayerfully arrived at, are hopeful, aspirational, and should enable us all to learn loads. The key link between the five is a commitment to plant churches and then plant churches, and then plant churches, that are outward facing examples of the people of God living the gospel.
Strand 2: The establishment of a ‘Learning Community’. This includes the missional leaders from each location and their teams. The plans each have drawn up asks a lot from the leaders both lay and ordained so supporting and equipping them is vital. The Learning Community will become one of the key places for that to take place. Throughout 2018 informal gatherings to worship, pray and hear each other have taken place. By the Autumn of 2019 these will have moved to a more formal place of learning and outcomes. As more resourcing churches are born the leaders of each will be a part of this. We are equipping leaders to be part of a church without walls, a missionary organisation dedicated to living out the good news of Jesus in full view of the world.
Strand 3: A leadership pipeline is essential if new leaders are to be grown, trained, inspired and empowered. There are lots of ways we can do this, encouraging women and men in churches to embrace their vocation, to discern and equip them and to create easy access points for all. Alongside our own relational activities to make that happen we have written into the planning the following structural opportunities.
- A Ministry Experience Volunteer scheme: This is an opportunity for people to work for a year within a parish or resourcing church, exploring ministry and doing some valuable training with the Lindisfarne training partnership (including discerning vocation) at the same time. The programme will launch in Spring 2019 with the first MEVs in place for September. None resourcing church parishes who could support costs would be welcome to be involved too.
- A mixed mode training partnership with Cranmer Hall will create a first for the North East. Ordinands will be placed in resourcing churches, and as numbers grow others that offer a good training environment, for up to three years. They will be an integral part of the leadership team with a percentage of their course pass related to their local work. We anticipate drawing people from all over the country to this programme and hope to grow a whole generation of church planting priests
- The Community of St. Cuthbert will be based in Durham but grow across the diocese as a tertiary community, committed to the missionary principles of Cuthbert, to the rhythms of prayer that underpinned them and the love of Jesus that inspired them. Every parish could engage with this, and as the programme is grown I will explain more.
We expect these programs to work together along with what already happens in the diocese to create a leadership pipeline to grow God’s church right through the 21st century. As such I am confidently hopeful that the three strand approach will see solid growth rooting and fruiting into the years ahead. For this is just the beginning, we are looking to plant further resourcing churches by 2020, and to enjoy watching the work of God astound us all.