In my pastoral letter on August 2nd, I asked you to respond to two challenging questions which were posed by the Archdeacon at Deanery Synod to all the island churches.
As we heard at Synod, we are at a crossroads in ministry on the island at the moment, as we face a huge financial shortfall. We were told that most parishes are in a decline in numbers, that giving does not cover the cost of ministry on the island, and that Covid has merely brought forward the need to address these issues seriously and urgently.
I asked you to consider the Archdeacon’s questions carefully, and to come back to me or the Churchwardens with any thoughts and ideas you might have. I have yet to hear from anyone.
The Area Dean wants to have feedback from all the churches by the end of September, so that she, along with the Archdeacon, can start to shape the future of ministry on the island, in which everybody has a part to play, so I pose the questions again.
Question 1: Is my Parish sustainable? If not, what changes do we need to make to make it sustainable?
Question 2: What needs to be present for Mission and Growth on our Island to be achieved?
I don’t want to sound alarmist, but Peter’s questions challenge us to recognise the fact that unless our churches are financially sustainable, growing and engaged in Mission, our future hangs in the balance.
In order to respond to the Archdeacon’s questions, we clearly need to consider our identity as churches, and to ask ourselves further questions such as, who is missing from our congregations? What might we do about that?
Things are obviously going to have to change, if we are to move from managing decline to a mind-set of growth and Mission, and thereby to secure the future of our churches. It is therefore imperative for us to find positive reasons why people would be attracted to our churches, and to think about the things which would enable them to thrive.
For example, if we think in terms of service to the community, what did we do in the past that we don’t do any longer? Would it be desirable to find a way to revive that, or is there something else we could do?
As I’ve said, it’s up to each one of us to contribute to the discussion, so that we can have a say in our future. I therefore urge you, seriously, to consider these questions and PLEASE to get back to me with any suggestions you might have about possible ways forward.
My love and prayers,
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The image above is from the book of Lindisfarne, dating from the late 7th century and is to be found in the British Museum Creative Commons CC0 License