2016 is shaping up to be a year where we have a number of opportunities in a range of key churches and roles across our diocese. We spoke to Bishop Richard on what this means for us and how we are responding.
Our diocese’s challenging mantra around the numbers of clergy due to retire or move on seems more real as we enter 2016. With key new opportunities at St James House being advertised and many parishes entering vacancy we are having a fresh look at how we encourage talented people to live, work and minister in our diocese.
“We have come to an inevitable point in the life of our diocese when people move on, when we reformat roles, when we look at change, that we have a number of opportunities arise” explains Bishop Richard who oversees a large part of the recruitment for clergy. But the Bishop is buoyant “as we work to our growth strategy we refocus and reorganise and that means change. Our job now is to develop people within our diocese as well as attracting fresh talent.”
The recruitment of our new Archdeacons is an important example of getting that balance right. A high profile national advertising campaign attracted a strong field which was narrowed to three excellent appointments. “What we see in Pete, Roger and Jennifer is three exceptional priests combining an experience of ministry from other dioceses (and country) with a grounding in our diocese.”
It’s a model that Bishop Richard is keen to replicate “I am keen on high quality recruitment material and strong advertising to show others the level of professionalism and dynamism that exists in our diocese” he contends. “Like it or not we are in a competitive environment and we have to be realistic. The number of enquiries and applicants that the southern diocese parishes achieve cannot be merely driven by a supernatural calling. People are making decisions to look no further than Watford Gap and we have to change that. We are aiming to change perceptions of the North West and this region. We have some key strengths. This has worked in some appointments to some parishes but we need this to develop and grow.
“The single most important decision that any parish can make is over who is being called to be their next incumbent. So getting it right is not optional. We need to continue to push for excellent, profiles and well defined roles. A clear vision of what God is calling a parish to do and achieve will enable them to get a much more successful Christian leader.”
It’s not simply about recruitment. We are looking to develop and retain people. That’s where the development and growth of All Saints Centre for Mission and Ministry and St Mellitus is essential. “having good local training options has made a tremendous difference” Bishop Richard said “we can now be confident that we can direct people to train locally, given them local opportunities to develop and thus retain them in our diocese.”
We all have a part to play. We can all be advocates, champions of our diocese and what we are trying to achieve. We have networks of people we know who may be interested in a move. We can all pray about the opportunities that are opening up for us. Parishes who are entering vacancy need to have careful, prayerful conversations about the mission and ministry they offer and the type of person they think God may be calling.
“It is a crucial time there is no denying that” agrees Bishop Richard, “but we are prepared and ready to show that in our diocese we have the right people to help build a bigger church making a bigger difference. This is not glib particularly if you focus on the second part of the sentence: growth within ourselves as Christians, growth in our churches, must never be an end in itself - we grow to enable us to better serve Christ in those who have yet to recognise and come to him." ”.
"We all have a part to play. We can all be advocates, champions of our diocese and what we are trying to achieve"