Diocesan Self-Supporting Ministers' Conference, Saturday 21st May


The Revd Canon Jean SkinnerThe Revd Elizabeth Brown reports:


The day started with freshly brewed coffee, hot bacon and sausage sandwiches, and a chance to chat and catch up (or get to know those we didn't know). We were joined by two ordinands who are to be made Deacon this year - Ruth and Debbie - along with House for Duty and sole charge SSMs.

The first sessions was a gentle Opening Service, led by the Revd Canon Jean Skinner (pictured, right) - using liturgy and prayers which helped us see our own creation through God's eyes and centre ourselves in love of our Creator.

Then came a short business section, where the Steering Group went through their work from the previous year.

  • The key phrase for the day was 'flouring diverse ministries.'
  • There being several new SSMs attending, we first introduced ourselves and shared briefly with the group our parish involvement, other areas of ministry and work and/or life commitments. It was clear from that that there is a wealth of experience and a breath of ministry within the SSMs in our diocese, from Marriage Preparation to Youth Work, Mental Health ministry to Elderly Care.
  • The 'transitions' document (the report written from our group to represent various concerns from SSMs, especially at times of change) was highlighted. This year aspects of it have been (and are still to be) spread into various Diocesan documents and to diocesan staff and other groups (e.g. to the Senior Staff team and into Clergy Handbooks). This is to spread best practice e.g. the Installation Liturgy for New Incumbents will be changed to reflect the work of SSMs and others during Vacancy. We have included a new section this year, which covers parish discernment over asking for or accepting an SSM, either in training or as an Associate Priest or Permanent Deacon.
  • The steering group:
    - have had influence over working documents (e.g. Statements of Particulars, Work Agreements, Role Descriptions and the MDR process). If you do not have a Statement of Particulars, one may be issued to you soon.
    - are communicating now across the Diocese via a new part of the Diocesan website (www.newcastle.anglican.org/ssm) as well as email, and to the National Church with representation on the Annual Day.
    - have discussed issues arising from the national programme of Renewal & Reform, especially questions around SSM selection and training.
    - have been in conversation with the Readers Board, to 'cherry pick' ideas for the Steering Group's ongoing remit and structure.
    - are building its structure to include, as needed, those SSMs who are members of other Diocesan groups.
    - have had invitations for SSM representation on three Task Groups: Disability, Poverty Action and Estates & Urban Development. This is not necessarily as a strictly representational role, but SSMs could bring, at times, a specific viewpoint different to other colleagues and would be best placed to pass areas of interest or concern back to our Group. More details about each of the Task Groups are in an attachment document.
    - has a rolling membership, and we would welcome individuals to join. The meeting schedule isn't onerous - four Sunday afternoons a
  • Bishop Frank is to let us know who the interim cover will be from the Senior Staff team during his vacancy. The new Bishop of Berwick will take responsibility for our group when appointed.

The second morning session was led by Bishop Frank. He shared with us the theological reflection from the new Professional Guidelines for Clergy. We spent time in small groups discussing aspects of Covenantal and Contractual models of working, feeding back to the main group some useful insights into ministry and vocation more broadly. We then, together, looked at the section of the Ordinal on prayer and learning, now fleshed out in the Guidelines, and discussed as a whole group the “privilege and delight” of corporate morning and evening prayer and other general reading and learning opportunities. Bishop Frank explained that he used the Ordinal as a touchstone for his own ministry, referring back to it regularly for guidance and direction and warmly encouraged us to do the same to support a confident life in prayer and ministry.


A light buffet lunch provided us a longer opportunity for informal chat and connection and during this time we were joined by Bishop Christine.

The Revd Julie RobsonPrior to our afternoon session, we welcomed the Revd Julie Robson (pictured, right) onto the Steering Group. The Revd Elizabeth Brown, the Revd Ann McGivern and the Revd Christine Brown were due to stand down but, with no others coming forward, they would continue on the group until such time as others came forward. However, Christine would no longer continue in the role of Secretary and she was thanked for her work. All were asked whether they would consider joining the group.

Our afternoon session was led by Bishop Christine, who picked up on several of the themes from the morning through her sharing of her own journey of faith and ministry. In her address, she explained she is the only Diocesan Bishop who has served as an SSM and trained on a local course. She talked also about her passion for diverse ministry, both lay and ordained, and how (necessity being the mother of invention) the programme of Renewal & Reform will help us as a Diocese develop new areas of ministry. She asked us two questions:

  • What we see as good and valuable in the Diocese.
  • What might need change.

and there was further open discussion.

The day closed with a Eucharist, presided at by Bishop Frank, who preached a homily on the day's readings, helping us focus on James 5:16 "the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective."

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