Bishop's Letter: February 2023

25th January 2023

Bishop Michael

A better way

Culture, it’s said, is ‘how things get done around here’. This suggests that our understanding of the world is largely formed by our experiences and what we’re accustomed to. That’s all fine until everything around us, as it does, keeps on changing. Then we’re then set on a collision course between how we think things should be, and how they actually are. Anybody aged over 40 who’s had to ask a nine year old how to use their new phone will understand this dilemma perfectly.

Cultural collisions aren’t just restricted to technology. They affect churches too. Many of us grew up with a model of church set up by the Victorians. This mostly meant that each parish had one church building with its own vicar, who took responsibility for most aspects of the ministry needed in a particular place. Yet even this was new in its day. Look much further back and things worked very differently. The New Testament speaks of churches where lots of different people played many different roles, each operating out of the particular skills and gifts given them by God. In Ephesians the writer describes a church where ‘some [are] apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers’. 

So what would be the right model of church for our day? The Victorians’ assumption that the vicar would do almost everything would seem to be a crying waste of the gifts and passions that together we share. And as more of our clergy care for three, six or more parishes, the nineteenth century model is increasingly leaving our vicars tired, overstretched and liable to burn out.

We need a better way; one that draws on the rich talents, abilities and skills that our church members have. Here in Bath and Wells we’re calling this ‘shared local ministry’. Examples of what that can look like exist in many places around our diocese. Neither first century nor nineteenth century, but an emerging twenty first century way of how we want ‘to get things done around here’. A better way to inhabit well the faith we’ve inherited in our time and generation.

Bishop Michael

This letter first appeared in the Manna mailing for February 2023.
Find out more about Enabling Ministries in Bath and Wells.

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