Monday, 30 April 2012

A new MAP

A new Mission Area Plan (MAP) for the deanery dropped through my letter box on Wednesday. That was a bit of a surprise, although we were asked to provide some basic material about this parish a while ago to contribute to some reflection on the existing MAP. It appears the Deanery Synod’s Standing Committee has taken to itself the role of the MAP Group (which hasn’t met for nearly a year now, but which did use to have representatives from each parish). The covering letter anticipates discussion and approval at clergy Chapter and then Deanery Synod next week.

The surprises don’t stop there. The only new element of the MAP is a half-time Parish Development Adviser post - which, it says, has already been filled (albeit only for an short initial period). The Standing Committee actually has skills in this area I did not have; when I was Rural Dean it proved a protracted and obstacle strewn process to get the diocese to authorise the appointment and payment processes for posts even when they had been through the then required layers of consultation and Pastoral Committee approval.

Other than this new half-post, the new MAP simply sets out the present pattern of clergy deployment - which is the existing MAP developed by incremental changes over several years. This is a further surprise because this is the one thing the Bishop of Grimsby challenged us not to do. We had a surreal experience last November when all the local clergy were called to his house to ‘share ideas for the future mission and ministry of the church across the [two North East Lincolnshire] deaneries’; the Bishop spoke for five minutes as we stood round a crowded room, funnelled us through for a buffet lunch and then sent us home. The one thing he did say then was the approach of making cuts by incremental steps within present groupings of parishes has gone as far as it can and we needed to move on to a more radical approach.

The new MAP also floats the idea that an increase in parish giving could be considered to fund a further half-post promoting Fresh Expressions in the more socially vulnerable areas of the deanery. I suspect some special expertise in this area would be appreciated in all parishes. The money may in fact already be there. The new MAP capitulates to the diocesan policy of budgeting for all planned posts rather than all filled posts which has and will mean that on average each year we return at least the cost of half a post to diocesan reserves; I think there would be more of a revolt if I had not failed so badly as Rural Dean in conveying the fact that this is equivalent to about £1 in every £7 paid by each parish as Parish Share going unused.

My guess and hope is that this is all a bit less strange than it appears to be at first sight. Most parishes probably have a member of the Deanery Synod Standing Committee, or have been consulted by someone who is, so knew how far a process had got and may even had the opportunity to contribute ideas to it. Most Deanery Synod members next week will probably simply welcome the support the new post holder can give without thinking a great deal more about it. Her quality and work might well be exactly the thing which prompt us towards developing the sort of more radical MAP the Bishop requested. Most parishes will simply continue unaware of the damage diocesan policy about budgeting for all planned posts does to our mission potential. Nevertheless, I’m sorry to have just briefed two of our District Church Councils in detail about where we’d need to be developing and thinking next unaware that a new MAP was going to drop through the door a few days later and not to have been able to tell them that a new deanery developmental colleague was already in post.

Oh, and the new MAP also thinks that lay ministry should ‘compliment’ ordained ministry, so this spelling may now be becoming normative among those who take leadership in providing and implementing fully worked out plans on our behalf.

Meanwhile, we heard Prof Warwick Rodwell lecture at Barton last week, and he pointed out that the two largest stones at eye level here at St Peter’s, Barton are actually hollow - portions of mediaeval stone coffins cut up and reused.

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