What can we do together that we could not do apart?

New team formed in Warrington East - Rev Denise Williams speaks to us about the journey so far and the challenges that lie ahead.

New team formed in Warrington East

In a rapidly changing world, parishes have to look to adapt and face challenging decisions about their future. With declining clergy numbers, changes in the patterns of church attendance and commitment we need to face the reality that in many places the old models of church no longer work. The need to reorganise is clear and we will be seeing an increasing number of schemes as parishes and deaneries look to further the mission of God in their communities.

Last Wednesday we saw the formation of a new team in the Cinnamon Brow, Birchwood, Woolston and Padgate areas of Warrington. The team brings together 4 parishes with Team Rector, Rev Denise Williams: Team Vicar, Laura Montgomery and a new Team Vicar to be appointed.

We spoke to Denise (prictured) about the journey so far and the challenges that lie ahead. She is candid and honest about the Warrington East experience being clear that it had been driven in part by need. “The process started with the reality that we had lost a cleric and to continue in the same way would not be sustainable” she said but added “what we are hoping to learn is what we can do together that we could not do alone”.

It has taken a long while and involved many robust discussions between the four PCCs. The process has been helped by the fact that a Group Structure was in place and there were good relationships amongst clergy. But it is challenging work, there was a continual process of relationship building through conversation, negotiation with away days and other events helping facilitate the process.

Although the formal process completed this week the group Council has been acting as team Council for a few months. The members have been responsible for engaging with their own parishes and helping to build a sense of collegiality.

According to Denise the key is about having a vision that everyone can catch on and unite behind “we are discerning what do we need to be team? What is the ministry of each particular church and what can we do as team that we can’t do separately?” Initially this has led to a joint nurture course, led by the laity that can attract far more than an individual church can.

Denise is also clear that the future involves more empowerment of laity and less clergy driven initiatives “our role is to make sure that people feel they have something to offer and give them the authority and skills to deliver their ministry”.

It is early days and we will be revisiting the team as they continue to explore what it is like to learn and grow together. Robust discussions will continue, mistakes will be made and lessons learnt but as Denise said the “Team is a community learning to be community and make a community that can be attractive to all those outside the church family.”

News & Events

Warrington East Team

The Warrington East team covers four parishes with about 40,000 residents in the Cinnamon Brow, Birchwood, Woolston and Padgate areas of Warrington. With a real mix of traditional housing, a range of social and economic needs and a lack of community centres, the church is seeing itself become centres for the community. A vital part of that is the important role that schools have in the communities and school ministry looks to be an important part of the future work of the Team.

Team Rector, Revd Denise Williams is based at Cinnamon Brow, while Team Vicar Laura Montgomery serves Birchwood and Woolston with a vacancy at Padgate. There is growth in the churches which broadly occupy a central churchmanship with a Eucharistic tradition.

More on the Warrington East team here