Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 3 October 2020

John Sundara The Living Church A Thicker Constellation of Vocation

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Is the Church of England ready for new moves in Safeguarding?

Meg Munn Chair of the National Safeguarding Panel Time for Review

Rogers Govender ViaMedia.News Walking in Beauty – Contemplation in times of Struggle, Suffering and Exclusion

Paul W Thomas Church Times Deaneries’ moment of truth has at last arrived
“It is time that they replaced parishes as the locus of the Church of England’s mission”

Trevor Thurston-Smith The Pensive Pilgrim Lament, Joy and Hope in a Time of Pandemic

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Father David
18 days ago

The Deanery as the locus of mission in rural areas like Shropshire may well succeed as more and more parishes are amalgamated but I can’t see the same model working in more urban areas or city settings.

Stanley Monkhouse
18 days ago
Reply to  Father David

Quite so, Fr David. Networks of those with similar needs and concerns could be useful, and in rural areas the deanery could well be the network. Elsewhere, networks could be – indeed already are in some cases – non geographical: the conevo network, the ”Society” (no women catholic) network, the AffCath network (has AffCath vanished?), the Greater Churches network, a civic churches network, and so on. To have a rural or area deanery centred on a town with village satellites never seemed a good model to me, for the needs and concerns of the centre are quite different from those… Read more »

John Wallace
John Wallace
18 days ago

Until last year, I had been a Deanery Lay chair since 1992!! Deaneries work if there is a focus. I also served for 20 years on the Diocesan Pastoral committee which received Deanery reviews at each quarterly meeting. I very much disagree with Fr David. In my experience the urban deaneries in my diocese work as they are defined by a logical geographical area and so can be the voice of the C of E to civic authorities as well as doing joint activities. My Deanery has 2 towns of about 45,000 each with Team Ministries, another of 20,000+ and… Read more »

Tom Downs
Tom Downs
18 days ago
Reply to  John Wallace

As a new diocese (1995) the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan (USA) was structurally built around the deaneries. It worked as described in the article. Over time the responsibilities and resources were gradually claimed by the diocesan office on the grounds that it was more efficient. However, it’s worth noting that the diocese as a whole grew under the former system and has been shrinking under the more “efficient “ system.

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
18 days ago
Reply to  John Wallace

Quite right – if we want to divide the Church up into units of mission larger than parishes, assuming that the existing Deaneries will do the job would be a key strategic mistake. Such mistakes are often made by people who know their own context, but don’t realise the variety in other places. Existing Deaneries were not constructed with this function in mind. Also the authority structure of the church would have to be modified – Deaneries have next to no formal power.

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
18 days ago
Reply to  John Wallace

John rightly warns of the danger of ‘one size fits all’. My experience of deaneries (rural, with market towns) is that there is little or no emotional attachment to them. It is parish first with the diocese an often poor second. Even those Team Ministries which were built around the Minster model can struggle to form an identity if the ‘minster’ is perceived as being unsympathetic to the needs of the village churches or if the ‘minster’ itself is a failing church. Deaneries, unless they are monochrome might only serve to magnify this problem. Even within the towns it is… Read more »

Kate
Kate
18 days ago

I am fortunate that I live with someone who has taught me to see beauty where I used to overlook it. I welcome “Walking in Beauty”: it reminds me that I need to keep looking because there will always be more beauty that I am failing to see.

David Lamming
David Lamming
18 days ago

Meg Munn’s ‘Time for Review’, report on the September meeting of the National Safeguarding Panel is pretty anodyne and gives no detail of (for example) the NST business plan, the policies discussed, nor of the significance of the Archbishops’ Council being referred to the Charity Commission in respect of its alleged failings of supervision of/accountability for the NST. Astonishingly, while noting that “a further report and recommendations are due from IICSA this autumn”, the indication of the business to be discussed at the next meeting ‘towards the end of October’ makes no reference to this report, due to be published… Read more »

Jane Chevous
17 days ago
Reply to  David Lamming

I was disappointed by this as well. Stephen Parsons blog provides a better indication of the current concerns and experiences of survivors. The recent announcements of redress and Safe Spaces scheme are welcome, I have already used the scheme and found it to be professional and survivor-sensitive. But, as Bishops Jonathan and Gilo commented on Radio 4 this morning, survivors like myself are still being re-abused by the core group process and the poor response to our reports of abuse, and there is a massive procedural, ethical, moral, theological and cultural transformation needed for that to change. You don’t really… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
17 days ago
Reply to  Jane Chevous

Glad to see Gilo has been elevated to the episcopacy 😉

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
18 days ago

I think Archdeacon Thomas is preparing us for the time when the Rural (Area) Dean is the only stipendiary cleric in the deanery. I need to be hazy about the detail and chronology of my former deaneries to protect myself. The positives about the deaneries I worked in were the close friendships with the few like minded colleagues. The negatives were interminable synod and chapter meetings with speakers foisted on us from diocesan house. Their back of an envelope presentations were padded out with the ubiquitous break out groups, when I often found myself having to decode what had been… Read more »

american piskie
american piskie
17 days ago

Any debate was not only discouraged but actively thwarted, in chapter but always at synod.”

Exactly this. The superfluous layer in the governance of the C of E is surely the Deanery Synod: nothing but a convenient way of divvying out the annual Diocesan Impost. Personally I blame dear Dr Kemp who with his friends imposed a “top-down” model on the C of E in order to avoid at any cost the suspicion that they were adopting the presbyterian “bottom-up” model.

Kate
Kate
17 days ago

That heteronormative concentration on families is present in many more active parishes too. It doesn’t just tend to exclude LGBTI Christians, it is also very uncomfortable for those who are single or simply divorced and, quite possibly, for older couples too. I wonder if one of the attractions of cathedral worship is that in a larger anonymous congregation people can escape that expectation one should be part of a heteronormative family.

Stanley Monkhouse
17 days ago

I can’t resist picking up Dean’s comments – all spot on in my experience – about gyms and Mr Thomas’s mission initiatives therein. People who don’t use gyms often have a mistaken view of what goes on in them. Perhaps they see them as social clubs with people chatting, gossiping, making deals, arranging dinner parties, having a pint or a gin after sitting on a bike for 5 minutes in the latest designer gear, peering into mirrors saying “does my bum/belly look big in this?” Like a golf club, I gather (I’m not old enough to play golf). I’ve been… Read more »

Father David
17 days ago

Following Richard Harries’ Review of the Church in Wales which produced “2020 Vision” to mark the centenary of the disestablishment of the Anglican church in Wales, one of the main recommendations and outcomes was the creation of “Ministry Areas” to replace the traditional parish. Ministry Areas can be compared to Church of England deaneries. So, all we need to do is to peek over Offa’s Dyke to see what measure of success these new larger Ministry Areas are achieving in terms of success in encouraging church growth.

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
17 days ago
Reply to  Father David

Good point Father David esp as C of E initiatives arent often properly evaluated. Can someone from the C in W helps us with some solid info?

Michael
Michael
17 days ago
Reply to  Father David

Ministry Areas in the Church in Wales are known as Misery Areas. They are a fig leaf to cover up rapid decline of number of stipendiary clergy, regular Sunday attendance and income. I think of them in terms of the Anglo Saxon Minster system, where there is a large parish church at the centre, with a full time stipendiary priest, and several other outlying churches. Parish Magazines (pre pandemic of course) read like a railway timetable where you have to scan the monthly list of services to work out what is on (if anything) at your village church on any… Read more »

Kate
Kate
17 days ago

Others know much more about the specifics of deaneries than me, so I will just say this…

In a country which has been forced into a virtual existence, I don’t think geographic’mission areas’ (as distinct from worship communities) at any level will be effective.

Dominic Barrington
Dominic Barrington
17 days ago

I think Paul Thomas’ article is too brief to have any weight, sadly. As others have mentioned, for what you might call ‘regular parishioners’, church is the local church, and it is hard imagining that anything will (or should) change that reality. Even if it is the case that the only stipendiary clergy end up being Area Deans, I don’t think that will change things. The issue is whether strategies for mission, growth, evangelism, etc can operate on a wider level (whether it is called ‘deanery’, ‘team’, or anything else smaller than a diocese), while the ‘regular parishioners’ maintain a… Read more »

David Richards
David Richards
17 days ago

The late great Wesley Carr used to say that, when people are looking for the ‘church’, they are looking for a recognisable building in their locality that is accessible, where they can pray and light a candle – and a vicar who serves that locality because s/he is known and recognised. Parishes work because they are rooted in places and the stories of those places. Most people couldn’t care two hoots about deaneries (which are simply an obsession for ecclesiastical anoraks who’ve got too much time on their hands). Most people avoid them like the plague – and that includes… Read more »

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
16 days ago

I wonder how the recent introduction of full time area deans in a couple of dioceses relates to this idea the future lies with deaneries as the significant unit?

Father David
16 days ago
Reply to  Perry Butler

Hadn”t heard about this innovation of full time Area Deans. Which dioceses have taken this step please, Perry?

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
16 days ago
Reply to  Father David

Manchester and Birmingham i think Father David

Father David
16 days ago
Reply to  Perry Butler

That comes as a bit of a surprise as these are two massive urban areas. I would have thought that rural areas might be better suited to accommodate full time Rural/Area Deans.

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
16 days ago
Reply to  Father David

I think Manchester is going down this route and even considering calling them assistant archdeacons.

Graeme Buttery
Graeme Buttery
16 days ago

Saints preserve us. This madness hasn’t got to my diocese yet. We do seem to be heading towards “everyone has responsibility so all shall. Have fancy titles.” My greatest sadness is that there is a chasm between the experience and outlook of rank and file clergy and the “vision” of those higher up the food chain.

Graeme Buttery

Alun Griffiths
Alun Griffiths
16 days ago

On the deanery model and Paul Thomas’s unconvincing thesis, I can only agree with David Richards and affirm his assessment of what the dismantling of the parish system in the Diocese of Bangor has done to the church’s credibility in wider society. Not only has it exacerbated decline as a myriad of top-down ‘initiatives’ over a decade and more has zapped the energy and imagination of those clergy who haven’t so far joined the exodus to senior posts in the Church of England; but has created every impression (once you get beyond all the PR spin) of re-arranging the deck… Read more »

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
16 days ago
Reply to  Alun Griffiths

I read on a welsh churchman’s blog that what he termed “signed up ” members of the C in W has decliined from 91,247 in 1996 to 45,759 in 2016.

Froghole
Froghole
16 days ago
Reply to  Perry Butler

Average Sunday attendance for the Church in Wales reported in 2004 was a little over 41,000 (http://www.brin.ac.uk/church-in-wales-statistics/), but this fell to about 27,000 in 2017 (https://anglican.ink/2018/10/06/church-in-wales-sees-15-decline-in-attendance-in-five-years/), the rapid drop presumably being attributable to the membership being heavily skewed towards those of pensionable age. I assume that the numbers have fallen significantly since then, the latest tally being taken last year. Compare, say, the average weekly attendance in Eds & Ips: https://d3hgrlq6yacptf.cloudfront.net/5f214e41ab1e4/content/pages/documents/1591716146.pdf. The CiW is equivalent to little more than two relatively weak English dioceses. On this basis, the rationale for maintaining six dioceses in Wales seems increasingly unclear. My experience… Read more »

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
16 days ago
Reply to  Alun Griffiths

How on earth did they persuade the parishes to carry on paying the parish share for a denuded ministry delivered from the ‘misery areas’? Admittedly I’m not familiar with the Church in Wales but my former parishioners in England would have assertively invited the diocese to a rethink. Even if some silver tongued archdeacon had managed to sweet talk them, it wouldn’t have taken them long to smell a rat. I’m sure that the people of Bangor diocese are no less astute.

Froghole
Froghole
16 days ago

I understand, and have considerable sympathy with all the comments made in response to Archdeacon Thomas’ article. My experience of the CiW (mostly confined to Llandaff, Monmouth and Swansea & Brecon) is that mission areas have allowed for the realisation of some economies of scale, but that these are subject to rapidly diminishing returns, and they do not necessarily forestall a significant rationalisation of the stock, as the recent rout in the Usk valley demonstrates. The new history of the CiW notes the shift to mission areas and cites the 2017 statistics (attendance of about 33,000, with no reference to… Read more »

God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
15 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

Ah yes, Parkinson’s Law and Peter Principle coming to mind:
Parish > Benefice > Deanery > Archdeaconry > Diocese > Province … stipends for the suitable boys and occasional girl … fiddling while Canterbury burns …
Time to call in the management consultants to borrow our watches?

Simon Sarmiento
Admin
16 days ago

But if one thinks that deaneries are useless, or even bad, then surely the fewer the better? So therefore the larger they are the better…

Father David
15 days ago

I can’t fault the logic in that Simon – so, let’s make them really, really big and call them dioceses. Then we can have two units – the parish and the diocese with one single bishop per diocese which might actually mean smaller dioceses.

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