The Revd Canon Linda Church, Head of Development for Mission and Ministry at the Diocese of Ely and Chair of the Shared Ministry Network Steering group, gives her reflections on the latest Shared Ministry Network conference, the last one the present Steering Group with oversee.
Over three days in October, the Manchester-based conference was framed around the Jesus parable of pouring new wine into old wine skins. Reflecting on what is the new wine God may be pouring into the life of the church and whether we are flexible enough to ‘hold’ it?
Linda explained: “As a conference we reflected upon Genesis 29:10-17, 1 Samuel 3:1-11 and Matthew 9:16-17. We thought upon each Christian, both lay and ordained, identifying holy spots in unlikely places in our parishes and in each case we sought to explore that experience through vocational eyes. This helped us look for the thing that God is doing through us and allowed us to examine how we respond together as a church and community.
Ruth Hassall (Director of Discipleship in Blackburn Diocese), Canon Dr Malcom Grundy (Parish Consultant) and Bishop Alan (Bishop of St Albans and Network President) stimulated the discussions with their experience, deep wisdom and perceptiveness around shared leadership. We all noticed how much of ‘healthy’ shared leadership grew among church leaders (both lay and ordained) who led ‘outward facing’ churches.
We welcomed teams and individuals from many dioceses, including a team from Long Island, New York. They shared their experience of a large church with many disciples, but operating in a climate of fear, with church doors locked at all times (including during worship) because of a gun culture. We were enriched by each other and by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. We were richly blessed.
This was the last ‘Shared Ministry’ conference that we as a Steering Committee will organise. Despite the wealth of experience and wisdom that we have all benefitted from, with the introduction of Setting God’s People Free and the Growing Faith initiatives, our thought now is that Shared Ministry belongs firmly in these camps and as such now requires the National Church embrace this”.