In my other post (42: Loss of anonymity) I mentioned a meeting with morning for all the ministers (deacons and presbyters) in the Northampton District with Martyn Atkins, President of the Methodist Church.
Martyn is an inspiring leader, his thoughts and then his responses to the open question time demonstrated his deep commitment to mission and his determination that we respond in missiological ways to the challenges that face us. I particularly like his focus on encouraging us to become Mission Shaped Churches/Circuits. He rightly (IMHO) puts the emphasis for us on Mission rather than simply being a Fresh Expression.
In my question, which I did not manage to frame as clearly as I would have liked, I was attempting to discover which elements of our structures, rules and administration Martyn thought should be removed or revised in order to free us for mission, particularly where the low lying fruit are, the things that can be changed quickly and easily to remove road blocks and help increase momentum for mission. The question was poorly put and the answer to some extent reflected that.
Yet it is clear from Martyn’s answer (and everything else that he said) that the question is the wrong way round. He (and clearly Alison as our District Chair supports this) does not believe the Church is demanding that we "wait until the connexion has removed these obstacles, changed these rules and then go and do mission". Instead the Methodist Church seems to be saying (and supporting and prioritising) "Go for Mission and we will support you". "Go for Mission and we will sort out the rules and structures to support you, but don’t wait, go for it".
We see this being worked out in all that we hear (sorry, mixed senses) about the stationing process. We know that we are short of Presbyters and Deacons but everyone is being told that Mission appointments will be given priority. If circuits want Ministers in September 2009 (we start the stationing process in September 2008) then they are going to have to show how they are re-organising for Mission. We also see it in other areas such as grant making.
The Connexion has been doing a lot of work to restructure to become more nimble and flexible, that is not finished yet but I really feel that we are being told not to wait but to get going and let the structures and rules catch up. That is an encouraging message for the Churches & Chapels around here as many are ready at the starting blocks, wanting to get going. Now we have nothing to hold us back.
We have an important Circuit Meeting in June where we are going to be proposing a whole load of steps to take us into a new life as a Mission Shaped Circuit, ones we believe that are exciting enough to make us an incredibly attractive appointment for someone wanting to get their hands dirty in real Mission opportunities. More on that later, but of course no direct advertising cos we are not supposed to do that, however, I may accidentally let slip out where to find our policies when they are (hopefully) approved
The Circuit Leadership Team has already made decisions that reflect new ways of working as a team for the new Connexional Year starting in September. These affect me directly and are exciting.
In other good news we heard today about our first female Chaplain to the Navy (about time too), obviously from the most progressive, flexible and mission minded district
Plus it is now confirmed that Paul Taylor will now be our District Development Enabler and CTO (Connexional Training Officer – I think is what it means, definitely not Chief Technical Officer anyway). That is good news as it would have been a big blow to have lost Paul now that his role as District Training Officer is coming to an end.
Anyway a good time was had by all, it was wonderful to hear the buzz of excitement after the session as people were enthusiastically talking together about what we can do to join in with the Misio Dei.