Shaped by God Together

We are starting a new process across the diocese to learn from the experiences of recent months as we seek to be Shaped by God Together. Please be praying ahead of this with anything that you find helpful, such as Psalm 137’s appeal to the Lord about how we can worship Him in a strange land.

This process will include a general invitation in coming weeks to everyone in the diocese – people of all backgrounds, all ages, all circumstances – to share stories of what they have been learning about everyday prayer, everyday witness and everyday action. The stories may take the form of written reflections, pictures, Bible passages, social media posts or other creative ideas. We will then collate these stories and use them to help generate insights about the future of the church – knowing that, while our core remains the same, the way we express our church life may need to look quite different in the future.  We will be inviting everyone in our faith communities to participate in this process.

Influenced by these stories and experiences, we will consider together how we care for our buildings, share financial resources and reshape our models of ministry. We anticipate that much of this wider work of discernment will happen in spring 2021, leading to final decisions at Diocesan Synod in May.

The Background

We are at the moment, facing both exciting opportunities and significant constraints upon us as a Church as we continue to seek to be ‘Shaped by God Together.' We have constraints of finance, including the use of our historical assets as well as our current patterns of giving, of ministry, including the developments of pioneers, the retirement and recruitment patterns of clergy and lay ministers, and the development of the whole people of God, and of buildings, including our churches, our halls and facilities. However, our planning for the future cannot be solely dominated by these constraints. God is a God of movement, who calls us to growth and change – and so we need to notice and be open and attentive to the new and exciting things God is doing amongst us and through us - how can we be ‘Shaped by God Together’?

We are therefore seeking to gather information about our experiences of everyday faith in order to better discern the way ahead. To do this ‘together’ we need to understand the complex dynamics at play amongst the 19,000 people, 320 churches, 80 fresh expressions of Church and other worshipping communities who make up our diocesan family. We are seeking to be faithful to the past, the present, and to our future, and want everyone’s story to be a part of the process.

These stories will help us to discern emerging patterns and will inform our future. We have learnt much recently, about our Everyday Faith and our 3 Key Questions. We have noted values of creativity, generosity and attentiveness that we seek to further develop. We know the way ahead contains a number of difficult questions and hard decisions.

Gathering Stories, Generating Insight

Participatory Narrative Inquiry is a process that works with complex situations and the stories people tell about their experiences. It invites people to share small anecdotes of their experience, and to answer some questions about their story. Within this process we will gather hundreds of stories and begin to examine patterns in the stories that can help shape responses at many levels. This will reveal our diocesan learning and will in turn feed into our future planning.

The process is Participatory in that it includes a diverse group of people as designers of the project, and hundreds of people to tell their stories. The process is Narrative in that we are gathering stories and allowing story tellers to interpret those stories. And it is Inquiry based in that the stories and the patterns that are revealed provide material to stoke the curiosity of people and groups who may wish to learn and support promising emerging practices.

Look out for updates: more details of the process and timescales, and how to share your stories will follow shortly.

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