'growing church bringing hope' vision update

17/07/2018

The Revd Canon Ian Flintoft, Director of Discipleship and Ministry for Mission, updates us on three of the strands from our ‘growing church bringing hope’ vision.

National money released for Impact strand

In addition to the news about national funding being awarded for the Resource Church, it’s wonderful to report that the diocese will benefit from £212,000 of Church of England Restructure Funding to progress work on the Impact strand of our diocesan strategy. 

We will use the money to employ specialist Lay Missioners in a number of pilot parishes – Denton, Newbiggin Hall, Cowgate, Percy Main, and Balkwell.

The Impact strand is one of five key elements of the diocesan strategy adopted over the past 18 months. Given staffing changes, it is the strand in which least obvious progress had been seen: however, this strand now has the capacity to achieve some of its hopes and vision. 

The aim for this strand is to focus on the potential for numerical growth, enabling lay and ordained leadership, and encouraging local opportunities for those exploring Christian faith. 

The goal is that in five years’ time, impact and attendance will have increased in 20 identified parishes (some will be parishes currently having the lowest per capita attendance, whilst others will be those with significant potential for further growth).

We worked hard with our first parishes to help them identify a way forward:  using a three stage process, groups from the congregations (in each case between 70 and 80 per cent of the congregation was represented) worked to identify their assets, the potential for growth, and the resources and next steps needed to make their aspirations a reality.

It was a privilege to work with those groups, to hear from them their deep desire for their church to flourish and their hopes for the future. 

What emerged from these events was a recognition that we need to embrace a shape of mission and ministry that looks different – ‘going where we are frightened to go’ as one participant put it. There was a desire for a new partnership of lay and ordained together, acknowledging that the ‘vicar can’t and shouldn’t do it all on their own’ and that we need to be ‘working as a team with all our strengths and weaknesses to bring out the talents already here and build confidence’.  Another church member said recently: “It’s such an encouragement to get this national funding – we know that God is at work in our local community and we long to see more people connect with God’s love and share in the life of the church.” 

The missioners will work with the churches and local communities to plan new programmes and forms of Christian community appropriate for the people and area.

They will initiate and expand links and networks with parts of the parishes currently not in regular contact with the church.

They will support and train volunteers, encouraging ministry throughout the congregations and specifically recruiting, training, and releasing people into mission-focused activities.

So, what next?  We are working to secure priestly ministry in the parishes named as pilots, and will then advertise for the missioner posts. Watch this space for news of our progress in these parishes.

Leading your Church into Growth

In April, the diocese ran the second Leading your Church into Growth (LyCiG) course for teams of clergy and lay people from a wide range of parishes. 
The national team and local leaders shared the input over three days, and covered various topics, with the following aims: to inspire participants as leaders; to encourage them to feel that, in their own way, in their own place, they can lead growth; to equip them with a straightforward and workable strategy; to give them teaching resources to share; and to enable them to create and put into action a growth plan. 
The feedback has been really encouraging: of those who completed an evaluation form, 100 per cent said that they felt more confident that their church could grow and was better equipped to work with God for that growth. 
The following feedback gives a flavour of what people thought about the course: ‘There is much to celebrate in LyCiG.  It gives a good lens to look through, to see what needs changing.  There are lots of achievable practical outcomes that can be put into practice;’ ‘Brilliant event, very inspiring;’ ‘Very positive, thought provoking event.  Clear achievable steps with an emphasis on prayer before, during and after;’ ‘It was not what I expected.  It was so much more and really feel we can do it as a parish.’

We are now planning for LyCiG 2019: to register your interest in a team from your parish taking part, please email: vision@newcastle.anglican.org

So what happens next for LyCiG parishes?  We caught up with Michelle Dalliston, who took part in 2017. She spoke to us about the difference LyCiG has made at St Aidan's Brunton Park and the Church in the Park.

“The whole imagery of growth - sowing seeds and then nurturing the young plants and seeing where God's dream is by what grows  - resonated really well with us. The timing of the course last May was perfect and picked up where we had already got to. The first success of LyCiG has been a real sense of affirmation of the journey we were already on, and it has served to draw others in to share vision and leadership.

“What we came home with was a clear wish to use the START and MOVING ON courses to address the need for deepening discipleship! They work very well for those new to faith (in one family, both parents went on to be confirmed and they and their children have become regular attenders), but also for long time attenders to explore their faith and share it with others in an open and easy way.

“While we are situated at the heart of the community, we haven't been very good at having the church open for people to come in for prayer or potential proclamation by meeting someone who might speak with them at a time of need. So this year our local ministry group has drawn together a group to look at improving access to the church, enabling the building to be open and also to improve signage externally.

“Running alongside all of this has been a much greater emphasis on prayer for growth! Prayer cards with the LyCiG prayer were used. Prayer and home groups are also becoming more important and there is enthusiasm to develop this - in the case of five 'new' people joining the church community in the last year this has been a key draw for them.

“Thanks so much once again for the opportunity to benefit from LyCiG - it has been and continues to be a really good tool and resource.”

Months of Guided Prayer

It is significant that our diocesan strategy begins with prayer and is undergirded by a prayerful seeking after God’s will and purpose. 
The first strand of the strategy states that ‘everything we do must be grounded in a deep prayerfulness and so we aim to create opportunities for deeper engagement with God in prayer.’ 
And so we are creating spaces for people to deepen our spirituality, specifically through offering people the chance to take part in a Month of Guided Prayer, or retreat in daily life. 
In 2017, we ran three pilots for this strand – in Riding Mill, Felton, and Cowgate – and 25 people took part. 

This year, another Month of Guided Prayer has already taken place in Heaton. Two of this year’s participants comment: “I have learned not to expect God to tell me what he wants, just to trust he will gently guide me. I feel much more relaxed in myself and in my faith, trusting God so much more”, and “The month has made a positive impact on both how I pray and through this my commitment to my faith. Time spent in prayer has now increased and I feel confident to be more open in my prayers and pray as I am feeling.”

The Month of Guided Prayer gives people the chance to meet one-to-one with a prayer guide for 30 minutes once a week for four weeks to talk about their journey with God and to explore new avenues of prayer. It is a great opportunity to take time out, deepen your relationship with God and discover new ways of praying. It is for anyone who would like to deepen their prayer life—whatever stage of the journey you are at. 

We have sessions booked for the autumn in Alnmouth, Monkseaton, Bedlington, and Riding Mill – and if there is sufficient interest, we will gladly look at setting up more in other locations. 

To request further details or express an interest in taking part, please email vision@newcastle.anglican.org or call me on 0191 270 4143.

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