on Saturday, 31 July 2021 at 11.00 am by Peter Owen
categorised as Opinion
Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Speaking of church, speaking of strategy; speaking of leadership
Martyn Percy Meander Feeding the Five Thousand
I love that poem by Hafiz, ‘The Seed Cracked Open’. That’s gorgeous, and so sweet.
The top-down strategies of the national church institutions may or may not be influenced by the management theorists and growth merchants of industry, where shareholder wealth is paramount. But a voluntary organization governed by consent is vastly different. What’s needed is a truly local, and bottom-up, approach. A major flaw in the prevailing orthodoxy is the assumption that the parish will continue to generate a stable income stream, while a number of well-resourced mission projects will deliver the numerical growth, in the face of overall decline. Although strategic development grants are a drop in the ocean in comparison with the… Read more »
Amen to all that. What I can’t understand is why no bishop will break ranks, championing the parish and declining to play along with central funding policies. There would be no shortage of applications for parish posts in dioceses which reinstated the parish as the primary means of mission and ministry, evidenced in the diocesan budget, in parish focused diocesan administration, and pastoral support from the senior leadership.
The diocese can often seem very remote from ordinary parishes – the national church institutions even more so. The effect of multiple tiers of representation is to create distance between the centres of power and the laity, and ordinary clergy. At the APCM a congregation elects its PCC, which, in turn, elects deanery synod representatives. Only the latter are eligible to elect members of diocesan synod and General Synod. Better use could be made, therefore, of deanery synods, by devolving control over budgets for ministry and mission to them. Since every parish has an automatic right of representation, it may… Read more »
One correction, Andrew: it is the APCM, not the PCC, that elects the parochial lay representatives on the deanery synod: see rule 19(1) of the Church Representation Rules. They then become ex officio members of the PCC: rule M15(1)(i). Sadly, in many deaneries, there are unfilled vacancies, indicating a lack of interest among parishioners in the business of the deanery synod. The vacancy level is particularly concerning in a year when lay members of deanery synods have the responsibility to elect the House of Laity of the General Synod to serve for the next five years. . I won’t comment… Read more »
Many thanks, David. You make an important point about the disappointing lack of interest in the deanery synod, especially when so many important decisions await the next quinquennium. The parochial lay representatives on the deanery synod, as ex officio members of the PCC, have twice the number of meetings to attend, which puts some people off. If indeed the deanery is being seen as the main body to further mission and ministry in some dioceses, as you say, it seems to me a logical step to make the deanery the recipient of parish share contributions, rather than the diocese. This… Read more »
Reenergising a deanery synod is hard but not impossible. For a start there needs to be an agenda that makes attending the meeting worthwhile. Giving the deanery a say in questions of deployment, appointments, finance and training creates empowerment. Deanery Synod is a great way of sharing ideas and skills that most churches have in common. And a message from a deanery synod to the bishop/diocesan secretary is hard to ignore. Evening meetings in the winter months in rural areas are usually poorly attended, and would be better on Zoom.
Yes indeed, Stephen. Getting the right person as RD is important. I imagine you know the problems as well as I do. Enabling deaneries to make decisions on the topics you name requires a degree of selflessness in its members. I’m told that decisions here concerning parish boundaries, for example, have been used to “settle scores”, to enlarge some parishes at the expense of others, seemingly in order to satisfy egos. There are ways of minimising such playground behaviour, but they require a strong RD.
The Martyn Percy article is pastorally and socially engaging ( and a refreshing change of focus). I like the emphasis on what children and childhood can teach us. I was reminded of the change, decades ago (Canada), when children began to be admitted to Holy Communion at a very young age prior to confirmation. We thought originally we doing something for the children . Turns out the real gift is what the full participation of children, even infants in some cases, has done to enrich the total experience of the Eucharistic feast. Of course, there is an interesting conversation to… Read more »
I have long held that one of the messages of the Presentation, if not the most important, is Simeon’s recognition of the power of the child **in us all**. As one of the Propers of the day has it “the old man carries the child, but the child governs the old man”. Personally, psychologically. Simeon recognises the power of childlikeness and responds “this is enough: I need no more” (is it really about forthcoming death?) “Ich habe genug” is one of Bach’s most affecting movements. As I’ve said repeatedly, even if not on TA, “would the child you once were… Read more »
The question that completes your comment is pregnant with meaning, to continue with the metaphor. (I do recall you noting that previously on TA). I mentioned the psychoanalytic theory of Erik Erikson in an earlier thread. One of the things that is handy about Erikson’s eight stages is that each stage is sublimated into the latter stages of maturation and growth. So early childhood stages, trust vs. mistrust; autonomy vs. shame and doubt, are ultimately taken up into the final stage of integrity vs. despair. (Without over investing in Erikson, he understood his theory heuristically, not as a ‘lab result’).… Read more »
That Nouwen is bang on. It is the centre of all the “mes” I wrote about recently – Nouwen’s “worlds” I suppose. I recommend Laurence Freeman’s “Jesus, the teacher within”. It’s available on kindle (DG: my sight faileth me for waiting so long upon my God).
Stanley, thanks for the tip about Freeman’s book. I followed up with a look in at a short synopsis on line. Looks like it is right in the zone of my current interests. I will indeed pick up an e-version.
Thank you Stanley. You touch on something wonderful and strange: the power of the child within ourselves. That final question of yours is also quite scary – have we let ourselves down in our adult life and grown estranged from who we were as children? I know this will sound totally daft, but my friendship with Jesus is something I live out in regular ‘times’ I have with Him, when I was a girl and He was a boy, and we go up on the hills overlooking Nazareth and play together, or just talk together, or go down and see… Read more »
Thank you Susannah. “Adorable boy”. Hmm. I think he must have been a rather stroppy and wilful kid. But perhaps we make him in our image. Actually, no perhaps – we do.
There is certainly something in the Gospels about the power of the child in us all. But I think Percy’s article goes beyond that and focuses on a different learning point about childhood which it is important not to miss. What did Jesus learn in his own specific childhood? So much Christian commentary following on from Geza Vermes and “Jesus the Jew” places Jesus in a monolithic Jewish culture. Yet Jesus the Jew, as a child and young man, grew up in a multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-ethnic society in which the Jews were a minority. I am fascinated by the question… Read more »
Jews were a minority in Israel?
Only in certain parts, like parts of Galilee and close to sephoris. I spent many years living close to the Edgware road in London, England. As a white, British man I was in the minority there, and learned a huge amount (and loved it, and miss having moved to Salisbury).
When you look at Jesus’ later teaching and openness to gentiles it is an interesting thought to realise that, as Percy writes, Jesus grew up in one of those minority areas with access to many foreign cultures – including a 5000 seat Greco Roman theatre.
Yes, although I find his certainty about what are essentially conjectures to be a little strange. E.g. there was a Roman theatre a few miles from Nazareth, together with the gospel use of the Greek word “hypocrite” means we can be “almost certain” that Joseph took Jesus there. Better to have said that it’s possible or even plausible, that Jesus might have been. We can speculate all sorts of things, e.g. whether Jesus spoke Greek. Do the gospels record his words in the language he spoke at least some of them in? It’s possible. It’s even plausible. But it remains… Read more »
Martyn Percy’s piece is very inspiring. I very much like the way in which he explains why there is a story about the feeding of the four thousand.
Reading Andrew Lightbown’s piece reminded me of my own management MA, which admittedly was in an educational context but many of the ideas translate well. Two things are relevant. Firstly the myth of the strategic leader (or superheads) was all very well for providing inspirational talks, motivating staff or bringing in resources etc. Unless you had detail wonks to make the timetable work, ensure the fire alarms were tested, order the office supplies and so on, then the whole things would just collapse and nothing was achieved. Second, the long term effects of charismatic leaders rarely lasted after the charismatic… Read more »
I appreciated the contribution of Andrew Lightbown’s article on ‘Strategic Management’ in the Church of England. I agree that the more diaconal (servant) brand of leadership may be what the Good News of God-in-Christ demands – especially at this time of escalating disregard for the Church in society – an ethos of Christ-like servanthood, led, not necessarily by the business management school of religion, but rather, more like the leadership of Pope Francis, who sees justice and mercy as being more the mark of the Church, which is not a business organisation seeking ‘market growth’ as its primary aim.