In July 2020, the Isle of Wight Deanery met to discuss how sustainable our parishes were and how the Churches could grow and thrive on the Island.
In September there was a further discussion with the Archdeacon about the future of Ministry on the Isle of Wight, with a recognition that we cannot stay as we are and that every parish would necessarily be affected. Parishes were invited to think about how we could organise ourselves differently, grow our mission and tackle the island’s financial deficit.
There was an acknowledgement that all our congregations (and our finances) had been declining on the Island and Covid had just accelerated the crisis. We were told, “Staying as we are is not an option”.
Our churches were then asked to consider two questions posed by the Archdeacon about how we saw the future of our churches. A few people took the time to respond to these questions, which I passed onto the Archdeacon.
In September, PCC members were all invited to an online consultation with the Archdeacon on the future of Ministry on the Isle of Wight, Diocesan Strategy, Vision, Structures and Finance; and Bishop Christopher asked all Deaneries in the Diocese to submit a plan for growth and mission in late February.
Various ideas were put forward for growing our mission, increasing our income and organising ourselves differently; and one of the proposals was to divide the Island geographically into just 7 parishes with one Team Rector and one Assistant Priest, under one PCC per parish.
The Society churches were concerned that this would make it difficult for us to maintain our Anglo Catholic tradition, and were considering the possibility of All Saints’ and St Alban’s joining with Good Shepherd and St Saviour’s to create one Anglo Catholic parish.
Since then however, our Area Dean, Amanda Collinson, suggested a much looser arrangement of collaboration between churches into geographical areas called “hubs”, or “partnerships”. These would be designed to enable the churches to work together on a day to day basis, to share skills and to connect with the local community, but without formally re-organising our parish systems.
I prepared a discussion document for our churches, out of which it was agreed that it would be advantageous for All Saints’ and St Alban’s to join a hub with the other churches in their geographical proximity. It was therefore agreed that we will join the South Wight group of churches, partly because we are already sharing in certain areas of ministry.
However, when the hubs/partnerships plan was put to the Diocese at Diocesan Synod, +Christopher made it clear that this did not go far enough. He wanted the churches in the Diocese to move to single parish groupings, or at least to Formal Teams. This came as something of a shock, and Deaneries across the Diocese expressed their concerns about this radical change.
We then heard nothing more until May, when a new Area Dean for the Island, Steve Daughtery, was appointed. He had some different ideas about how we might move forward, which he shared these with clergy at Chapter and again at Deanery Council a couple of weeks ago. He then put his thinking into the public domain by making a presentation at Deanery synod.
Here are some notes from that presentation……
Deanery Synod 17.6.21
Notes from Steve Daughtery’s (area Dean) presentation
about the Deanery Plan
Steve began by quoting Jer 29.11 which speaks of God having “plans for his people”. This passage, he said, is offering hope in difficult circumstances. Although there is no quick fix it contains, nonetheless, a message of hope – and this is something Steve wishes us to take to heart.
Steve made the point that Consultation takes time if you want to arrive at a good decision.
He outlined the way in which the Deanery had recommended to the Diocese that churches wanted to move into collaborative Partnerships or hubs, so that resources and skills could be pooled. However, at Diocesan Synod, +Christopher had said no to this, as he wanted single parishes to be formed, or at least Formal Teams.
To grow in:
- Impact on Society
- Depth in Discipleship
- Growth in numbers
Matt 13 31-32, parable of the mustard seed
John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches….you will bear much fruit”
- To create visionary leaders
- Teams on a mission
- Kingdom-building disciples
- Growth-enabling structures
Steve said that Visionary leadership is a key idea in the C/E which is to be put into our own Diocesan Strategy.
Vision – is a “motivational bridge” to the future.
Deut 8:7-10 – God paints visions. Gives us a mountain-top view of who we are and where we want to get to.
Mission – is about the key things we need to do to realise the Kingdom of God in our context
Strategy – the path we’re going to take in order to achieve our mission
Action Plan – the steps we need to take along the way
These all support one another and work together; and need to be done before we can think about Teams.
Whilst the original Diocesan recommendation was for single parishes and the creation of formal teams, Steve pointed out that restructuring alone doesn’t produce growth. He said it can be “time-consuming and unsettling, especially if people don’t feel consulted”.
His recommendation now is for the churches to work at grass-roots level to come up with concrete proposals for taking forward the Diocesan Vision, and only then to talk about the mechanics of restructuring.
He said he would take as a given that all our churches are committed to the Diocesan vision of growth in impact, depth and number.