at 7.30pm - Thursday 31 January 2008 at The Reading Rooms, Great Brington
The Reading Rooms are found in the centre of the village, at the end of the row of cottages
which includes the Althorp Coaching Inn. Parking Is available In the street and in the small car
park adjacent. Refreshments available from 7.15pm. Guest speaker - Barry Osborne
"The fields are white with harvest - hundreds of kids are ready to come to church!
Maybe we just haven't got the welcome right"
This was the challenge offered to October's Deanery Synod by guest speaker Rona Orme, the new Diocesan Children's Missioner. With 30 years in children's work, and a Reader since 1991, London-born Rona has spent the past 25 years in the picture box villages of Devon. The author of 'Rural Children, Rural Church' told us how she had been called to work in the communities of this Diocese, where from her window she has witnessed arson attacks, drug dealing and violence, and that she will have to think carefully before writing an urban sequel to her book which would make more difficult reading.
After her wake-up opening challenge, Rona gave an energetic précis of her views and challenges on children and the church, summarised below:
Who does the children's work in church? Do we apply as much energy in the selection of our children's workers as we do, say, for Readers? Or is it a case of 'there was a gap on the rota 14 years ago, I filled it, and I am still here?' Whilst that case needn't be a bad thing, do we train and nurture these children's workers? Often the answer is no: is that really good enough? Don't both volunteers and children deserve better? If we haven't got the right people to do children's work, let's make a conscious decision not to do it!
Parents put huge energy into getting the best for their kids, and this includes something spiritual. Often the local church is the only potential spiritual provider - it's a huge responsibility. Just because the parents don't have contact With us, it doesn't mean we don't have something to offer. The ball is in our court. We need to suggest it and be proactive.
Baptisms R Us: But parents might need us to offer it to them. We have to say what we do. If not a baptism, what about a thanksgiving? Consider a Christian goody-bag for new babes in the parish, regardless of whether Mum or Dad comes to church ... and give it with no strings attached.
Churches are great for displays: use them for the right things - part of schools' OFSTED inspections require a tick in the box for Social and Spiritual Development. So invite the schools in - help each other.
The Good Old Days? 25% of children we work with in a systematic work continue into adult faith. That's the figure now, and it was the same figure 60 years ago. So it doesn't mean that there is a demise and it's not about the loss of Sunday School!
Sunday School: Churches which develop children's work prosper. Sunday Schools have now been superceded by midweek services and activities. In fact all growth is midweek activity-based. If you want to try it out, don't bite off more than you can chew. Try one small 2 hour event at half term? WOW is one idea - Worship on Wednesday.
Old before they are young: Remember that children consider themselves grown up at an early age so don't put them off by over-labelling activities as children's.
Children ministering: They don't often get the chance to minister in church. That doesn't mean that they get given tasks like the collection or offertory. But do children's views get listened to by the PCC. Are they ever asked to address the PCC?
Rona concluded by offering her services to anyone who needs help or advice with children's activities, whether revitalising existing schemes or kick starting new ones whether project-managing, or even fronting. Her departing challenge was to remind us that we CAN do this work - as servants of the children we live amongst.
Clive Evans reported that a group of deanery members were at that time in Bungoma, with another member due to visit in November. Clive himself had been to the country in September, during terrible weather - people were literally drowning in swollen rivers every day - it had rained since May. All had been moved by the visit, finding only superlatives to describe their experiences. Clive asked us to continue to pray for Bishop Eliud and the people of Bungoma, and concluded with the following heads-up. If the Lambeth Conference happens in 2008, we shall be asked to offer hospitality and lodging for up to 12 Bungoma diocesan visitors during the weekend of the conference.
The Treasurer reminded us that the 'Benefice Share' is now with us. Determining a 100% equitable system is difficult, but help can be given to parishes who need advice or arbitration. He asked us to consider the new arrangements as a way of bringing people together - mission cannot be separated from money which cannot be separated from sacrifice! He concluded by asking that any form of attendance returns are returned on time as often the deadlines are tight. Treasurers to note please?
Phyllis Annis, Geoff
Arnold, Chrystal Baker-Bates, Kairen Ball, Susannah Braithwaite, Alan
Chantler, D Charman, J Charman, Sam Dobbs, Alex
Clive Evans, Revd Mary Garbutt, Revd
Canon Ian Gemmell, Esme Godden, Gill Goodridge, Gill
Hewer, Revd Karen Jongman, S J Jowers, Katherine Leach, Graham
Le Flem, Theresa Le Flem (obs), Rick
O’Donoghue, Neil Robertson, Garry Shaeffer, David Staveley, Revd
John Tarrant, Liz
Steven Trott, Sarah Turner, Ray Walton, Margaret
Angela Cooke, Kathleen Friend, Revd David Lake, Chris
Nelson, Diane Parton, Sheila
Robertson, Barry Smith, Lucy Sparrow.
IN ATTENDANCE: Rona Orme,
Diocesan Children's Missioner.
Clive Evans, Rural Dean, gave a very good presentation on the Deanery Mission Plan (DMP) - circulated in advance - and made the following points:
The document is a diocesan requirement
The Plan includes a synopsis of the current Deanery set-up, and an idea of how it might look in the future. This has been much-mulled over by Standing Committee and is now for consultation with PCCs.
Synod members were asked to take their Plans back to PCCs for feedback.
A website has been set up and details sent to Synod members who are asked for all comments - even if the response is that you are happy with the document as it is.
The Appendix to the document is probably the most controversial as it talks about the future clergy staffing of Brixworth Deanery and asking the Deanery to suggest allocation of clergy accordingly.
The Diocesan clergy allocation to the Deanery is set at 9.3 posts in 2007, 9 posts in 2009 and 8.4 posts in 2012.
This reduction is our share of Diocesan clergy reductions under the national 'Sheffield Plan' which equalises clergy numbers across the country. Dioceses are required to comply.
Where posts are shown as decimal points, this is because a half-time clergy post (with house) is considered 0.7 of a post. House for duty (without stipend) is considered 0.3 of a post. Curates are not counted.
In general terms, the majority of the Brixworth Deanery staffing plan is considered to work well. Having already made changes, we are well placed as a Deanery
The Rural Dean then gave a parish by parish commentary on the DMP, summarised here:
Spencer Benefice: Already suffered reduction, and urgent assistance is being sought to support the Rector (Editor's note - now in hand)
Crick: Nil change - previous talk about potential merger with Long Buckby, but not in life of DMP
Long Buckby/West Haddon: Curate in place, but anticipating issues in 2009
Clipston Group: When Vicar retires or moves, seven churches come together
Faxton Group: Joint benefices with Rector
Guilsborough/Spratton: Long standing aspiration of two groups merging as one Benefice with Rector and 0.3 post. Side agreement with Diocese that we expect 0.3 post at Spratton parsonage house.
Brixworth/Pitsford/Holcot: These parishes are rightly subject to the current freeholds. but on the vacancy of one or both livings, it is unlikely that one clergy post would cover only two churches, so reductions are planned/anticipated.
Discussion ensued and the following points raised:
We need to know what the Diocese will do with parishes where living is currently suspended
Succession planning and factoring in lead-in time would be novel and welcome. We don't want 7 years of plenty then 7 years of famine! We have no plans for locally ordained priests, and cannot rely on SSMs.
Some consider that churchmanship needs to be taken into account when considering groupings
It was concluded that a DMP which sets out a strong, well-thought-through case will stand the Deanery in good stead, but consultation with PCCs is crucial. It should also be remembered that whilst clergy allocation to our Deanery has been suggested, we should be mindful that a decision to 'staff up' a Deanery with a more convincing case would have to be at the expense of another Deanery.