An Overview of Interim Priorities

Antony SpencerThe Chairman’s Address to the PCC on Monday 19th May 2014
Antony Spencer chairing the PCC set out an ‘Overview of Interim Priorities’

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I thought it might be helpful for me to outline what I see as the position and priorities of our situation just now at the start of this new PCC season. I do this with the aim of clarity but especially to promote a discussion amongst us about Bishop Andrew’s APCM challenges.

Firstly though, let me set a time line …Interim Leadership Time Line
March 2nd – Announcement that Nigel is standing down. There was a build up to that of course that affected people differently – some for a long time some for a short time.

April 30th – Russ Parker Teaching Day (26th April) and the Annual Church Meeting. These helpful events started the period of healing for the community. This ended the period of ‘No Man’s Land’ as Bishop Andrew set out the leadership in the interim.

The next significant event will be when Nigel resigns his position as vicar. Obviously very significant for Nigel and Annie as they have a clear position to move into but it’s also very significant emotionally and practically for us as a community as it marks the move from pre-vacancy to vacancy, when:

  • Legal responsibilities for the church pass from the Bishops to whom Nigel has entrusted it, to the churchwardens.
  • The process of finding a new vicar may start.

The next significant event will be the appointment of a new vicar. We don’t know when the process for finding him or her will start and we don’t know when it will be concluded so this leads us into a defined but indeterminate period of time …

… a time period I have called The Interim.

So let me outline in general terms what I think are the THREE priorities for us in this interim period:

ONE: Period of healingHealing on the Streets picture
Firstly, it’s a period of healing where we can look to renew and develop trust and openness among us. This is really important for the wellbeing and future of this community. This healing is also essential for us to fulfil our calling before God because lack of unity impedes the Spirit’s presence, and our witness and we will not experience the blessing of God.

Trust and openness have taken a knock and there are still raw feelings of sadness, bewilderment, hurt and injustice which need to be settled. I believe the healing process has started. As individuals we need to attend to our own wounded hearts and seek healing – through forgiveness and also reconciliation with particular people, and also perhaps through counsel and prayer.

Some of this is a matter of direct action and some of it is a matter of the passage of time. Time alone however, will not resolve matters if we don’t confront our own issues. As well as applying ourselves individually we still need outside help to do this and we also need to look at our operations and systems corporately.

Russ Parker is coming back tomorrow (20th May) and will be seeing several people who have asked for appointments. Steve and I will be speaking to Russ and will keep in contact with him and the Bishops to see what might be the best way and timing of continuing his healing wounded churches process.

Bob Dunnett plans to put on another evening prayer event, Moving Forward – a sequel to the event he led in February. The date of this will be Wed June 11th.

Trust in the openness of communication has taken a knock I believe so we are introducing a brief report of the Standing Committee’s meetings to the PCC. We are also looking to include PCC minutes – once they are approved – on the web page via the roundup.

Bishop David said that he wanted us to review our communications – which is always a pressure in a large organisation involving hundreds of people – and much credit is due to Stella and Fran who work very hard at this. But perhaps we need to strategically review communication expectations and possibilities … so that our formal communication is a match for the ‘jungle telegraph’. This is an issue for the staff team and for every area of ministry as well as for us as a PCC.

We need to work at creating a wholesome and safe environment when we are together. There can be a sense of awkwardness or apprehension about meeting together – and this is not just about PCC meetings. We have to walk into and work through this awkwardness. I’ve seen some good things in the staff team as we have done this, and over the summer we are suggesting that we have two bring and share picnic opportunities – one at the beginning and one at the end, (3rd & 31st Aug).

At a recent Holy Trinity Brompton conference that I attended much was made about the importance of friendship as the normal way we relate together. Friendship is the setting where difficult things can be said or different views acknowledged, but relationships remain strong, wholesome and good.

TWO: Seeking to answer the question posed by Bishop Andrew at the APCM:Bishop Andrew
“What kind of church does St John’s Harborne believe it is called to be now in the 2nd decade of the 21st Century?”

Now this is a big and important question so that as a community we are clear and that we accurately represent ourselves in the Parish Profile that will have to be compiled as part of the process to appoint a new vicar.

Bishop Andrew spoke about a balance between Word and Spirit and about us spending time on our knees as we wait on the Lord together to seek His future direction.
I endorse that absolutely.

One important aspect is to ask the Lord what is he saying to us and teaching us as a community in the difficulties we have experienced together. Pride is one issue that I have heard mentioned, also depth of relationships. How do we hear God together on these and other aspects? Bob Dunnett’s prayer time on June 11th will be one opportunity for that; but we need to give attention to what other ways we will personally and corporately seek the Lord’s word and purpose for us.

To help us begin to consider this the preaching and teaching scheme in the next season will explore ‘who we are’ & ‘who we are together’. Details to follow.

Bishop Andrew had some observations and challenges about how this works out:

  • That we invite people back who have left … and we remain active prayerful members of the church family.
  • That we become more adventurous in evangelism and church planting.
  • That we sort out the building which ‘doesn’t begin to express the life of the fellowship within’.
  • That we aspire to grow in size – he suggests to double … so in electoral roll terms from 400 to 800. Is that what we want … how would church planting work within this as a strategy?

So what do we make of these challenges? Some of them are not immediate matters but they will form part of our on-going aspirations and calling before God.

THREE: Review and establish effective structures and procedures.St John's Church

For example … because there are others…

  • Communication
  • Welcome – another of Bishop Andrew’s challenges – and one on which to focus straight away. We honour Pat Brydon who has done so much in this area, but as a church we need to develop a culture of welcome for us all, and not just the process of welcome
  • The Crossway
  • Staff organisation – job descriptions and priorities.
  • Governance – an important issue for us.

So there is much for us to do as we move forward together.

This might be an interim period but it is not an insignificant period of time. What we do together now will have an impact on the future of St John’s as a community as we undertake preparatory work for a new vicar coming.

This is not just a fallow period of marking time but it’s an important time of healing, redefinition and re-ordering as we move into the future.

Antony Spencer, Associate Vicar/Interim Vicar and Chair of PCC
19th May 2014

22nd May 2014 Posted in: Hidden Posts by Stella Jennings 2

2 Responses

  1. Mike and Rachel Hill says:

    Very good to have this overview. You are all in our thoughts and prayers, that God will work all things for good.

  2. Karl Mcilwaine says:

    We must continue to pray faithfully for Anthony who is now doing at least 3 jobs with the departure of Nigel and Tim and including the one he was appointed to, originally. Also all the other staff members (thanks be to God for them) who are stepping up to extra leadership and preaching responsibilities.
    Last, but not least, Nigel and Annie need our prayers as they adjust and seek for God’s will and direction for their future.

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