Wednesday, July 22, 2015

El Dorado at El Rancho

Nothing excites me more ecclesiastically these days than visiting churches where loads of young people and/or families with young children are present. I had such an experience visiting a local parish on Sunday morning.

The day before I returned from being part of the Wellington Diocesan Ministry Conference at El Rancho, Waikanae. Although I had been invited to give some Bible studies and workshops, the Conference was the opposite of draining or tiring for me. It was a real spiritual tonic. Great worship, excellent contributors (i.e. other than me), super cool MCing by my colleague Spanky Moore.

But best and most invigorating was simply being with the ministers (ordained and lay) of the Wellington Diocese and their families. It was a chance to catch up with some old friends as well as to mix and mingle with a large group of folk new to me. About 160 in total. Very energetic. Pure gold.

I didn't do a count but it seemed like over half were aged under 40. Very cool. Let's face it, when most of one's working life has been spent in the working for the good health and growth of our Anglican church, it is quite satisfying to think that this church might still be around in fifty years' time! Incidentally, simultaneously, a national church Theological Hui teeming with young people was being held in Cambridge, Waikato.

But what sort of church will ACANZP be in fifty years' time?

Well, going on my visit to the Diocese of Wellington, it will not be the church it is today. I say that because my experience at the weekend was an experience of a diocese as it changes from what it once was to what it is becoming. (Trust me on this. It's partly hard to put my intuition into words. To the extent that I could put it into words, I haven't time to set them down).

The fascinating thing about Anglicanism in these islands (and elsewhere across the Communion) is that even as we attempt to change or resist change on matters such as Motion 30, we are changing in various ways as we attempt to adapt what we do as 'church' in order to connect with community around us.

We are in a race for survival. Some stats suggest a graphline which will zero out sometime in 20??. But in the race for survival we are recognising that the fittest survive and the fittest are those who adapt themselves to changing environments.

My experience at the weekend (both the conference and the local church service) highlights some ways in which we are winning the race.

Thanks be to God.


Jean said...

Hi Peter

So jealous but glad you had a good time with the Wellingtonians!

Bishop Tom made a smart move a few years back where he identified,
encouraged and fast-tracked those in their 20's and 30's who were involved
in youth ministry or other ministry, towards full-time ministry. It appears
the move is now bearing fruit...

And well El Rancho, St Luke's fond memories...


Anonymous said...

Could you clarify, please, what you mean by "fast-tracked", Jean?

Do you mean reducing the study, training, and formation that the church elsewhere understands as appropriate and indispensable for the long-term health and flourishing of both the community and the minister?



Jean said...

Hi Bosco

Sure Bosco, no not necessary reducing the formation but looking at each person's (young people in this instance) background and determining what could be done to enable them to undertake ministerial training and practice as soon as possible as appropriate to their exxperience.

Of the examples I know of:

One of those who went for training came from a different denomination initially, he had done one year at bible college in the UK and an 8 month mission trip in Africa, he then worked for two years as a youth pastor in NZ. When he showed an interesting in ordination the fast-tracking was being confirmed asap and being ordained a deacon, then to St John's for two years.

One had worked for a very long time as a youth pastor in a large church and didn't decide to take the next step until after a discernment round (is that was it is callled) had just passed, he was sent straight through to St John's anyway.

This was a few years ago. All three of the young men I knew at that point. One has turned a dead church into a flourishing one. Another is overseeing a large Parish with multiple churches, and I am unsure about the other one.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Jean.

One of my irritations is our church's reluctance to keep statistics. This leads to an inability to do careful analysis and a penchant to make unverifiable claims and counter-claims.

As we keep no such statistics - best guess is that about 7-10% of our ordained in NZ have been to St John's. Best guess is that many - the majority stay for about a year.

I have heard that Bishop Tom in his time as Bishop of Wellington ordained about 300 people.

Success stories like yours may be exceptions - they may be the norm. If 300 clergy in the Wellington Diocese have been turning dead churches into flourishing ones... I've not heard about it!

I think we need to think carefully and prayerfully about study, formation, and training of the ordained in the 21st century; and we need to have careful analysis of their long-term healthy effectiveness and of the communities in which they serve.

I also think we need to be very, very careful that we do not over-clericalise. People exercising effective ministry as lay people does not mean they are called to ordination. Nor does full time ministry mean ordained ministry. We are all ministers - lay and ordained.



Jean said...

Hi Bosco

I agree.... wow 300 ordinations in 14 years, although I suppose that is only about 20 a year and it is a big diocese. I don't know re the accuracy of the statistics or whether all the ordinands stayed in the Wellington area or became Parish Priests. I could probably name about 10-15 flourishing churches but no, not 300 : ) ...

There were only about seven candidates in the service I went to at the Cathedral. At the time I was there a particular emphasis was put on young people (ie: under 40) as there is now in the Christchurch Diocese. All the three candidates I was aware of at the time were at St John's for at least two years.

I totally agree with you re we are all ministers and that was especially practiced in the church I attended and as such I enjoyed being mentored in areas often reserved for Priests only in churches who have a more hierachal structure because 'that's the way it's always been'....

Take Care