Mission and Ministry in Edinburgh

Last night our Mission and Ministry committee met to discuss Ministry Review as part of our 2008/9 goals.  A few issues arose for discussion and, as ever, I’d appreciate your input folks…

The first question we discussed was:
What do we in Edinburgh Diocese mean by ‘ministry’ and how does it relate to ‘discipleship’?

I realise that we in Edinburgh may do ministry differently from those elsewhere. Ministry has first and foremost to be contextual. And ministry in the city of Edinburgh will be different from ministry in the Borders, and West and East Lothian (all part of our diocese). For you it will be completely different but I’d be interested in your opinion.

There has been much debate in our wee church about ministry of late. Local Collaborative Ministry (with capitals) has caused some clergy to feel uncertain about their future role. This has been covered on blogs in the past.  Our committee recently studied The Mission and Ministry of the Whole Church, C of E FOAG Report 2007. One of the questions it raised was the use of the words ‘ministry’ and ‘discipleship’. There seems to have been a shift in recent years towards the use of ‘ministry’ to cover all sorts of jobs that people do in the church: from welcoming people at the door to playing the organ to visiting the sick to arranging the flowers. But what the report was suggesting was that these jobs are really ‘discipleship’ – things that we all should be doing as Christians. Each of us will have strengths in certain areas of discipleship and those should be affirmed and nurtured and undertaken to the best of our ability.

Ministry, or rather ‘ordained ministry’ also contains the role of leadership, as well as enabling and nurturing. But never in four years of university or three years of Theological College were we taught those skills. Now it may be that in our selection process those skills were discerned but having leadership skills in the secular world can be very different from the skills needed for working within a congregational setting. We concluded that continuing training in this area was long overdue.

How can we support both clergy and lay ministry better?

ES, who wrote the paper we were discussing, says ‘…the term ‘ministry’ is notoriously greedy and almost impossible to define. A definition that is too limited may exclude and offend laity; a definition that is too broad may leave clergy feeling devalued and demoralised. At General Synod this year, one priest spoke of his hurt at hearing stipendiary clergy being described at a Provincial Conference as a burden on the Church’s finances. Other clergy refused to vote on occasions at this Synod apparantly in protest at the power of LCM in the SEC.’

I would agree with this statement and it is a very difficult subject to discuss. Clergy morale is low for those and other reasons. And a common complaint, not just in our diocese, is the lack of continuing personal development and  lifelong learning. It seems to many of us that a huge amount of resources have been recently put into the training and development of LCM but little for stipendiary and non-stipendiary clergy. There was a recent article in Inspires about the training offered to lay people to be Continuing Congregational Development Companions. These companions are invited into congregations to lead congregational development days and help the congregation discern where changes might be made. They are trained to tackle issues which a church as a community might face and to discern gifts in the laity. My question is this: why is this training not just given to clergy? I have never been offered further training in this area and would be really interested in developing those skills.

Is our training in those of authorised ministries in IME, CMD 1-3 and CMD 4+ adequate and would its improvement increase clergy morale and vocations?

Well you may have already gathered that my answer to the first part of that question is ‘No’ and to the second part ‘Yes’! As long as continuing resources is put into lay training and programmes clergy are going to be more and more demoralised and dissatisfied. Our Diocese has an excellent programme called Adventures in Faith which offers training courses and one day events for lay people (and clergy) to attend. And I have. But these are not specifically aimed at clergy development and that area is like a barren land. To be fair, our diocese did indeed put on a couple of one-day events for clergy last year but the take-up was so poor that one had to be cancelled and the other cut short because only two of us turned up. Perhaps the organisers need to look at the topics being offered and ask what is really wanted or needed?

I know of one diocese that has monthly clergy development which is mandatory and has my full support. But at the present time each diocese is responsible for its own training and there are huge differences in the approach.

In this week’s Church Times there was an excellent article by Rev Brian Cranwell entitled ‘Head off stress by getting feedback’. He suggests that clergy need better appraisals and training to prevent problems leading to stress, breakdown and even some leaving the church altogether. In my past job I had annual reviews and had to undertake regular training as part of my contract. Although the SEC has a Clergy Appraisal Scheme, I think, it is voluntary and as ever those who perhaps need it most don’t take it up. And it is such a well-kept secret that many don’t even know of its existence. And while peer appraisal can indeed be valuable there is something to be said for regular appraisals with a senior clergyperson in one’s own diocese. For example, nobody has ever spoken to my Vestry or congregation to see how I am functioning. I might be the worst preacher in the world and who is to know?

So there we have it folks… over to you for comments.

5 thoughts on “Mission and Ministry in Edinburgh

  1. Tanks, Ruth. Lots here to think about.

    I have begun to realise that one of my own tension points with some of the lay training that is offered through groups (Lay Learning, LCM, Theological Facilitators, etc.) is that I think much of it is better done locally with and for the whole congregation. It’s a normal part of congregational development.

    So, like you, I wish that some of those resources were directed towards the clergy — especially stipendiary clergy — who can facilitate such learning on a daily bases in local congregations.

    There are times, of course, when having outside perspective is helpful. I would also want to encourage and support the training of people (lay and ordained) who have the skills to offer the wider church real expertise. But I think we may have the balance wrong right now, in that we do a lot of basic teaching centrally, do not do all we could to help clergy develop the skills that could support congregational development, and rarely seek to help someone develop real expertise (though thankfully, that does not stop some people form doing so).

  2. I’ve wrestled with these issues for some time, not least because of the unhelpfulness of some of the literature, where the definition of ministry is so broad as to render the term useless for intelligible discussion. The distinction between discipleship and ministry is, I believe, helpful. There is no reason why the laity should feel devalued, because ‘discipleship’ means taking the implications of our baptism seriously, and realising that service to the Church can, as well as the activities you mention, Ruth (‘welcoming people at the door to playing the organ to visiting the sick to arranging the flowers’), embrace really demanding things like prayer, empathetic listening, giving advice and support to those in trouble, or giving an articulate account of our faith to others.

    At first glance, there appears to be a sort of grey area between discipleship and ministry, e.g., reading the Lesson, occasionally preaching or leading worship. But to qualify to be called ‘ministry’, any Christian activity has to show three characteristics: (a) official recognition and mandating by the Church to serve the ministries of word, sacrament and pastoral care; (b) having a public and representative character; (c) being subject to accountability and oversight.

    It seems to me to follow that clergy shouldn’t feel diminished by an enhanced level of lay involvement, because we still have an important job of leadership to do, precisely in persuading our flocks to see discipleship in this way, and discerning and affirming their gifts. Which is why I agree with you and Kimberly that clergy (whether stipendiary or non-stipendiary) need more training and support than they usually receive at the moment.

  3. Thanks Kimberly. I agree wholeheartedly with what you’ve said. I don’t have a problem with outsiders coming in with a fresh perspective from time to time. In fact, I think that should be part of our annual appraisal/review. And I can see that transferrable skills from outside the church would also be of benefit – and have used that myself when doing a recent Clergy Away Day to great success.

    Maybe CMD does need to be done Provincially again so that we can meet up more often than we do at present. I also think we should have Provincial Clergy Conferences so that we can share some of these issues.

  4. Eamonn, thanks for your comments too.

    I don’t feel diminished by enhanced lay involvement. In fact I am a great advocate of local collaborative ministry (with no capitals!) and do it all the time. I just don’t get why it has to be outsiders who are trained in this kind of discernment and training when it could easily be given to clergy.

  5. Not ‘diminished’, perhaps, but I know that some full-time clergy feel threatened by the rise of lay ministry. One even said in my hearing, ‘I didn’t get ordained to be an enabler!’

    So, well done that you’re encouraging the laity without feeling that they’re going to steal your thunder!

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