There’s been both enthusiasm and disquiet around as the Church of England has started discussing its vision and strategy for the next five to ten years: enthusiasm for its vision of a ‘humbler, simpler, bolder’ church; disquiet about some of the specific aspirations that have been widely shared (with the mention of ’ten thousand new lay-led churches’ in particularly leading some commentators to believe that the Church of England plc has fallen out of love with her parishes and even her clergy!).
There are undoubtedly different views around here, compounded by a careless use of language from some quarters: but I do want to reassure both clergy and laity here in Guildford that I and my colleagues remain fully committed to the vision of loving, healthy parish churches with ordained clergy leading them! (The same, I know, is true of both our archbishops).
The pandemic has stretched us all to the limit, but it’s also demonstrated the tremendous quality of our clergy and lay leaders, and the extraordinary blessing of our parish churches, deeply rooted as they are in the communities that have never needed us more. As we prayerfully negotiate the steady return to something a little closer to normality, please be encouraged that we’ve got your back!
Of course we’re committed to chaplaincies too, and church schools, and the many new worshipping communities that have emerged from within our parishes and deaneries (messy churches, youth congregations, worship in residential homes and the like). We’re also committed to renewing our parish churches through a range of interventions (including grafting from one church to another) where the number of the faithful has fallen beneath any kind of critical mass; and it would irresponsible of us not to keep a careful eye on the bottom line.
But as we face the continued uncertainties of the coming weeks and months, here’s what the Apostle Paul would say to us: ‘Let us not grow weary in welldoing, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart’.