Congratulations to Rev Canon Malcolm Chamberlain who has been appointed Archdeacon of Sheffield and Rotheram.
Bishop Richard commented "The Diocese of Sheffield have made an excellent appointment in Malcolm. He has shown himself to be an outstanding priest, incumbent and Area Dean and I know those qualities will have a real impact in Sheffield diocese. He will go with a grounding in parish ministry and as one of our earliest Pioneer Ministers, giving a wide range of experience. We will miss him but send him, Jo and the family across the Pennines with all our prayers and best wishes."
We interviewed Malcolm about his appointment and his reflections from his experiences here in Liverpool.
What is your new role and what will it entail?
I’m going to be the Archdeacon of Sheffield and Rotherham in the Diocese of Sheffield. It will involve being a part of the Bishop of Sheffield’s Senior Staff Team and working alongside Area Deans and the churches of the Archdeaconry in implementing the diocesan Strategy for Growth. Of course, there’s all the other responsibilities of an Archdeacon to get my head around too, but I’m really excited to be doing so in a diocese where decisions are shaped by mission concerns.
What drew you to the role?
I was initially drawn to the role by the opportunity to work with a Diocesan Bishop who is a recognised leader in mission, in a diocese with a well set out strategy for mission and growth. The role of Archdeacon is seen as central to this missional purpose of the diocese and enables me to bring my own passions, gifts and experiences to the post. The diocesan strategy establishes an expectation of growth as normal, within the context of developing mission partnerships, planting fresh expressions, transforming society and re-imagining ministry and leadership. All of this and more excites me and prompted me to explore this role, but above all I have increasingly sensed, and had confirmed by several other people, God’s call to serve in this post.
Are their similarities between our two dioceses?
There are some obvious similarities, not least the clearly defined agendas for mission and growth. There is also a good relationship between the two dioceses, and they have shared together in some of their mission thinking. As we’ve visited Sheffield over the last couple of months we’ve also been struck by similarities between the cities of Liverpool and Sheffield, not least the fact that locals have a pride in their city that is rooted in a rich history. I’m sure that there are many differences too and I’m prepared to encounter them and have to do some speedy re-learning, but at present it doesn’t feel like we’re going somewhere that is going to be a huge culture shock!
You’re known as one of our pioneers – are you going to be able to take that pioneering role with you?
Yes, I hope so! Bishop Steven, the Bishop of Sheffield, was an Archbishops’ Missioner and was the very first Team Leader of Fresh Expressions, and so he has been instrumental in developing the mixed economy vision of the Church of England. He remains committed to the planting of fresh expressions of church, which is one of the main components of the diocesan strategy. A key role I will have as Archdeacon is helping deaneries to discern opportunities for new mission initiatives and develop vision for planting fresh expressions of church. In many ways I see all ministries in the Church of England as having a pioneering opportunity for those who want to take hold if it, as we seek creative ways of engaging changing cultures and making the good news of Christ known to all.
What are the challenges you face?
Where do I start? Our first challenge as a family will be to leave behind St Mary’s and Liverpool, both the City and diocese. After more than 14 years here this feels like home for us all and indeed is home for the children as they were born here. Leaving will not be easy but we are all excited too about moving to Sheffield and living there. Personally, I think the first few months of the new role will be hugely challenging as I get to know a new city and diocese, and begin to grasp the many responsibilities carried by an Archdeacon. I’ve often semi-joked that ordained ministry has, for me at least, been a series of steep learning curves but I have a feeling that the steepest one is coming up next! I’m really fortunate, therefore, to have good supportive friends with wisdom to share on the end of the phone here in Liverpool, and an experienced new colleague in Steve Wilcockson, the Archdeacon of Doncaster. I think I’ll be drawing on his advice a bit in the weeks to come!
What do you hope to bring to you new role – is there anything you can take from the Liverpool experience?
It sounds a bit corny, but primarily I will bring myself with my own passion for mission and enthusiasm for expressing the gospel in word and action. That said, there is so much I can take with me from the 14 years in the Diocese of Liverpool. I have been hugely privileged to serve in several different but complementary roles while in Liverpool, and have been involved at the heart of our own journey towards establishing a ‘Lake and River’ diocese from the beginning, having planted Dream before ‘Mission-shaped Church’ was published and ‘Fresh Expressions’ was in our vocabulary. That is certainly an experience I can take with me, as are the may things I’ve learned since becoming an Area Dean two years ago (another one of these learning curves!) As a university chaplain I learned a great deal about building partnerships with ‘people of peace’ who may not call themselves ‘Christian’ but share certain Kingdom values through which we can work together. This seems to me to be another important experience and perspective to take into the role of Archdeacon, as we look for creative opportunities to work with people and organisations outside the structures of the Church. I’ve also really enjoyed the six years at St Mary’s and have valued the opportunity to lead a small church into growth, such that it is now not only gathering more worshippers on Sundays but is open for much of the week engaged practically in serving members of our community. Experiencing first hand how small churches can make a significant impact is another key thing to take into my new role, better enabling me to encourage churches of all sizes, not only the large well-resourced, to grasp hold of a vision for growth.
You have been Pioneer Minister, Rector, Area Dean – what will you miss most from Liverpool?
I think I’ll miss it all and probably won’t be able to answer this question fully until a year down the road. I’ve enjoyed every ministry that I’ve held in Liverpool, and have greatly valued being a part of our great diocese. One of the things that I’ll probably miss most initially is the sense of being well plugged-in here. I know lots of people in the diocese, have some great friends here, and also know who to call on for what. Likewise, I’m known by many for what I can offer (and what I can’t!) and it’s great to be contacted and invited to be involved in other people’s ministries from time to time. I guess this will build in Sheffield over time, but it’s something that I’m sure I’ll miss in the first few months.
What challenges face our diocese?
As with every diocese in the Church of England, Liverpool faces the challenge of meeting a growing mission field (there are more people with no church connection or understanding of the gospel today than at any other time in the history of our diocese) with decreasing resources. It’s a challenge, yes, but is a wonderful opportunity too to reorientate ourselves around what truly matters and join in with what God is doing in mission today. I believe that we have to grasp hold of the overriding question, which is “are we fit for purpose for mission in the twenty-first century?” That’s not to call into question the past in any way, but is to focus on the now and the future, and be prepared to change so that the mission of God is served more effectively. This affects pretty much everything – how we organise our church ministries, how we deploy leaders, what we do with our buildings, how we (re)draw our boundaries to make better sense of changed communities, how we disciple Christians and encourage them to be committed to this task in the use of their time and money, and so on. It’s a big challenge not only for our diocese, but for the Diocese of Sheffield too and every other diocese and ecclesial structure. But we meet this challenge in partnership with one another and with the Holy Spirit leading us into all truth, so it’s hugely exciting too!