Philip North introduces an exciting new role
A couple of years ago The Society launched, ‘Forming Missionary Disciples,’ which challenged our parishes to discover afresh the Catholic call to making new disciples for Jesus Christ. It set before our movement some key priorities: Lay formation, children & young people, quality in our worship, confidence in the priestly life, intentional evangelism and generous service.
The strategy was developed by a group of younger Anglo-Catholic clergy all of whom were leading growing churches and were passionate about leading new people to Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
A number of positive developments have flowed from ‘Forming Missionary Disciples.’ However, unlike a Diocese which has a staff team, a Diocesan Missioner and a communications infrastructure, The Society has a tiny staff and this means that it has been hard to lift the strategy off the page.
Which is where we come to a very exciting new development. You may be aware that in recent years the Church Commissioners have been releasing some of their historic assets to invest in mission. Up until now this has largely been allocated to Dioceses and there have been accusations made in some quarters that most of the money goes to one particular tradition in the Church of England.
It is fantastic therefore to be able to report that the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England has agreed a grant to the bishops of The Society of £140,000 over two years to enable us to appoint a Missioner. The task of this person (or people) will be three-fold.
First, they will support every Parish that is part of The Society in responding to Forming Missionary Disciples. They will do this by creating excellent printed and online resources, by equipping PCCs to engage with the strategy in accessible ways and by advising the Catholic Bishops. They will be on hand to support individual parishes. They will seek to ensure that Forming Missionary Disciples is not just words on a page, but confident, outward-looking ministry in our parishes as they seek to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Second, they will do the groundwork in developing a Rule of Life for Laypeople. We all know that helping laypeople to live out their faith with greater confidence is key to supporting churches in growth. The Rule will help laypeople to root their lives in prayer and equip them to put faith into practice in their homes, communities and places of work. It will also mean that laypeople can be more directly associated with the work of The Society.
And thirdly, the Missioner will form and work with small groups of priests who wish to support each other in developing the ministry of their parishes and be more ambitious in seeking to grow congregations in depth and in number. Many of our priests are heroic in the way they are developing their parishes, often in highly challenging circumstances. However ministry can be isolating and its fruits hard to see. The Missioner will therefore want to raise morale amongst groups of priests so that they can discover anew the joy of the priestly life and so engage with God’s mission with ever greater conviction.
The generous level of the grant also means that there will be some money in the pot to resource the work.
There is a degree of flexibility in how the post is configured. It could be done full-time by one priest in which case they would be offered a parish base near London. Equally a layperson with enthusiasm, energy and skills in strategy and a real passion for mission could be just the person we are looking for. Or a third option would be for two people to share the work between them, both working on a part-time basis. What matters is finding just the right person (or people) and we can wrap the post around them.
So how can readers of New Directions help?
First, please pray for this exciting new initiative.
Second, when a funded post becomes a real person, please make the best use you can of them as you look to the future of your own parish.
And third if you, if you anyone you know, might be interested in this post, please email: email@example.com.
The Rt Revd Philip North is Bishop of Burnley