At our clergy Chapter meeting on Feb 9th, the Area Dean shared with us the results of the comments she has had from the churches across the island about the Deanery Plan, and the consequent decisions she has made about the new groupings into which the various churches will be placed.
These decisions are not set in stone, but are based on feedback from members of our congregations about their wishes. If you don’t agree with the decision she has reached with regard to Godshill Parish, please contact her via your Deanery rep, Alan Philpott at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Amanda stressed that she is trying to avoid Pastoral reorganisation, as this can be such a painful process, fraught with difficulties and is likely to involve forced redundancies of sitting clergy. By drawing churches into partnerships, however, current Parish structures will remain as they are. The intention is that through these partnerships the churches can support one another in their mission, reduce duplication of services and be better placed to respond to the Bishops’ call to the churches to grow in depth, impact and number.
She also shared with us where it will be possible for her to make savings. The Deanery Plan will be presented at our Synod next week, before it goes to the Bishop for final approval.
Amanda stressed that, although she is very grateful to those churches who have paid their share in full, the fact remains that the Diocese only collected 56% of the expected total last year. Monies collected go into a central pot and, for churches in a vacancy, the decision to recruit (or not) to a post lies with need, rather than the individual churches ability to pay their share.
The good news for the 3 Society Parishes is that they will be protected, and an appointment will (in due course) be made for a Society priest who will serve across all 4 churches in our constituency; and I will continue to receive a half-stipend to carry on serving across the four churches for at least another year.
With regard to the grouping into which Godshill Parish will be put, Amanda took account of the differences of opinion expressed by our congregants about where we should “sit” in relation to the partnerships which she has been drawing up.
Whilst there were some who wanted to link with Ventnor and the other churches which will now be added to that group (St Lawrence, Whitwell, Niton and Chale), there were also strong voices rejecting the idea of Godshill Parish being included in any Ventnor grouping. Some people also expressed a strong desire for Godshill Parish to be in the same “hub” or “Partnership” as the other Society churches.
In light of all this, Amanda has decided that Godshill Parish should be put in the same group as Good Shepherd and St Saviour’s. As these churches have already agreed to join in Partnership with the other churches in the Bay, Amanda told us that Godshill Parish will therefore, along with Good Shepherd and St Saviour’s, join the Partnership with St Blasius, Shanklin; St Paul’s, Shanklin; Christchurch, Sandown; and St John’s, Sandown.
The Bay clergy have now met several times and have been exploring some potentially exciting mission opportunities; and the PCCs for Good Shepherd and St Saviour’s are also very much on board with these plans. With Godshill Parish joining the Partnership it is hoped that they will also wish to get involved.
I must admit to being somewhat saddened that Godshill Parish doesn’t wish to join with the Ventnor group of parishes; as, indeed, +Norman was when I discussed it with him because, if this decision is ratified, it will have some, perhaps unforeseen, negative consequences for us.
Firstly, the provision of Messy Church in Upper Ventnor will be affected. This venture has up to now been run by St Alban’s and the Ventnor churches as part of their joint missional outreach. However, if Godshill parish are in a group with the Bay churches, we will obviously no longer be an integral part of the missional activity in Ventnor and this relationship will sadly have to come to an end.
Secondly, Ventnor and the surrounding churches, as described above, will be served by Hugh Wright, with Tony Lawrence (currently training at St Stephen’s House) as his curate from the summer, plus Fr Gregory Clifton-Smith and some readers.
Tony, who used to be Churchwarden at St Saviour’s, is a traditionalist Anglo-Catholic; and it had been my hope that as part of his curacy he might, once he has been priested, be able to help at All Saints’ and St Alban’s during our vacancy. However, with the Parish’s decision that they do not want to be part of Ventnor, this will not now be a possibility.
Thirdly, Fr Gregory, who lives in Ventnor and is a member of Hugh’s Team, had been generously giving us one Sunday a month. With the new grouping of the Ventnor area churches, he will necessarily have more calls on his time from those churches. In light of this, it will remain to be seen whether he will be able to continue to support All Saint’s and St Alban’s liturgically.
However, James Cook holds the list of retired clergy who are willing to conduct worship for the many churches currently in vacancy. I know he will help as much as possible in finding priests who can say mass for us although, unfortunately, they are unlikely to be from the Catholic Tradition.
If you are happy with the decision about being in the Bay Partnership, no further action neds to be taken. However, if you wish to deviate from the current position which has been requested, please liaise with your Deanery rep, Alan Philpott, who can then gather a parish outlook and inform Amanda ahead of Synod on Feb 16th.
It was good to speak to +Norman during the week. He sends his love and said he was disappointed that his proposed trip for the weekend of 19th – 21st had had to be cancelled due to the lockdown. He said he hopes to be able to come to the island before too long.
With my love and prayers,
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The pen/brush and ink above is Christus geneest een melaatse (Christ heals a leper) by Rembrandt circa 1650-1655 and can be seen in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam Creative Commons CC0 License