Come the collapse of the present parish system (it wasn’t put quite like that), what three things would stipendiary clergy welcome leaving behind, and what three things would we want to make sure we carried forward? This was the group work task put this afternoon at the special gathering of almost all the stipendiary clergy in the diocese. If there was one third of the number of us working in fifteen years time (which was the projection shared) what approach would we need to be taking?
'Leaving behind' isn’t difficult. Alongside the running of church buildings, churchyards and parishes which need not be seen as prietsly tasks at all, there are a range of administrative tasks which are legally tied in with being a Parish Priest. I was asked if I had time to stay after the service when I celebrated the Eucharist for one small self sufficient parish recently, and they didn’t then ask to use any liturgical, pastoral or theological expertise I might have to add value to what they were doing. In this case it turned out that they needed me to copy across and certify information about the identity of several lay leaders onto Criminal Record Bureau forms.
'Taking forward' had a simplicity about it for the group I was in as well. We used the end of Acts 2: the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer. We’d like to be used as missioners and to engage with people in theological exploration. We wouldn’t want to lose the human and community relationships which underpin parish ministry at the moment. We’d be lost without being people of sacraments and prayer.
The picture is a detail from above the doorway over the passage to the left of the building which was used between 1888 and 1918 as the mission room (which came to be called St Alban’s Mission Church) in Oxford Street in the parish of St John’s, New Clee.