My maiden speech on the General Synod!
I welcome the opportunity to speak to the Quinquennial Challenges in a maiden speech, as I serve the Diocese of Derby as Continuing Ministerial Development Officer. In this capacity, I have followed with great interest all of the three priorities, but especially that of Re-imagining Ministry.
In particular, I welcome the emphasis on lay ministry and the identification of incumbency as an area in need of support. But neither of these two areas is much more than a recognition of the needs of the church for its current approach to ministry.
It has been more than a little disappointing to see that Re-imagining Ministry has been largely a top down exercise coming from the Ministry Division to the dioceses and parishes.
Ministry is something that we receive as a gift and as a calling. The first question, then, is where is the church gifted and called. As the challenge of Re-Imagining Ministry goes forward it would be really good to take the opportunity to see what different parishes and parishes are doing at he grassroots and in surprising ways. In Derby we are actively looking at how we are being a presence in every community, finding excellent and imaginative examples of how different places and people are providing a presence of worship, witness and service. I had the privilege of being at a licensing service in the Diocese of Bristol during the last week, to see teams of lay people commissioned alongside the new incumbent to work as a team. I am sure there are many many more examples from around the Church of England, and indeed from our ecumenical partners. If we are to meet the challenge of Re-Imagining Ministry, then one of the tasks is surely to find out with what ministry God is already gifting the Church.
But above all, there has been precious little space for imagination in the work so far. This requires space, space for prayer and listening for what ministries God is calling out from the church; and space for imagination, space to take risks, to try new things, to make mistakes, to learn, to make different mistakes. It is a shame that the language of Re-imagining ministry has been lost. New vocations and Common Awards are important, but they speak of a continuation of our present ways of offering ministry.
If this Synod, and the national institutions could tell the stories of imaginative and transformative ministry; and could open space, space for listening to the call of God, and space for using our imagination in taking risks, and trying new things, then we really will have a transforming ministry and be better equipped to make new disciples and to serve the common good.