Recently we announced the formation of the 4 Saints Team Ministry (Huyton Deanery) and we wanted to look at this from two different perspectives. This week we hear from Rev Andrew Stott, Team Rector about how the changes came about. Next week one of the congregation from the smallest church in the team – Irene Hunt from St Jude’s – gives us the view from the pew.
“Remarkably it was a relatively painless process. It was a long process – an agenda item on every PCC meeting for two years – but it seemed to work with ultimately all four PCCs voting unanimously to become a team”. Reflecting back on what has led to the formation of 4 Saints Team, Rev Stott is clear that one of the strengths is that the idea came from within the local churches and all saw the benefit of coming together.
“The churches were already working in a cluster so there was logic to bringing people together in a formal team. We already had mutual support and prayer between clergy in the cluster but it came to a head when we were looking for a replacement at St Mary’s Knowsley Village and St Jude’s Stockbridge Village. It was a difficult task to find a suitable replacement with skills required for this post. After much prayer one of the clergy in the cluster made what seemed like a flippant comment – there has got to be a better way.”
“We took the discussions slowly and carefully, with a Core Group representing each PCC exploring what Team Ministry was all about and how it could work,” explains Andrew. “Doing it this way helped the parishes see the benefits of team ministry and allowed them to move forward in the exploration with confidence. The final unanimous vote from all 4 PCCs gave us a very clear mandate and a chance to work together positively in the future”.
There was a clear need to find a new model of ministry. They needed to lose a stipendiary post in the deanery, and the exploration of team ministry within the cluster allowed them to discuss together this new model. As with many clergy, they felt they were constantly juggling balls and hoping everything didn’t collapse around them. As the new model began to evolve, the practicalities of working together began to be unpacked. Despite the four churches being close together geographically, each church represented different traditions and communities - and the team didn’t want the weakest to suffer.
“There was a perception that the smallest – St Jude’s – might have to close, but we saw potential for growth by sharing our gifts, talents and resources across all four churches. It was clear that we couldn’t sustain a communion service in every church on every Sunday. Change was needed. We had to look for a fresh idea and approach if we were going to be able to sustain the future”.
It was a careful process, informed in part by the fact that Andrew was also taking part in the School of Leadership. He invited clergy from established teams so that PCC members could find out first-hand what team ministry could look like. These meetings allowed the group to ask important questions and to find out from other teams what worked well for them. It allowed the group to begin discussing what model of team would be beneficial to the four churches. It was an opportunity for honest questions and answers that helped people understand what was involved in team ministry and how they could be part of the future.
It is still early days and the team is working to find its feet but there are clearly opportunities. The local schools in the parishes offer plenty of scope for new ministries and the aim is to make the team less clergy dependent, more mission focussed and working to be in a better financial position. But having the team in place enables more resources to be put in place.
That will be seen in the Messy Church initiative being planned. A group from across the team will come together to plan a Messy Church which will be run different weeks in each of the four churches. For as Andrew says it is easy to plan it once and deliver four times learning and improving as they go.
As Team Rector Andrew has overall responsibility for the new team but he is keen to stress that it’s about all team members working to support each other’s, and their churches’, mission and ministry. By working together they can build on the small signs of growth and look to a healthier future.
So far it’s been relatively smooth. As Andrew says almost the biggest debate was over coming up with the name 4Saints Team Ministry (Huyton Deanery).