Stepping forward

The Diocese of Bath and Wells became the sixth diocese in the Church of England to take part in Partnership for Missional Church, the unique three-year journey to help congregations change their culture that is run by Church Mission Society in the UK. Here we find out how the early stages have gone.

“God is waking us up, stirring us up and creating lots of opportunities for us.”

Inspiring words from participants on the Partnership for Missional Church, and they’re not alone in their belief that “God is more alive and active than we realise,” finding ways to motivate us to notice new ways in which we might live out our faith.

Jonathan Philpott, Priest in Charge of the Benefice of Berrow and Brean felt God was very much at work in his recruitment, allowing him to take on the role of ‘enabler’.

“The benefice had been thinking for some time about a church which was missional, and in 2019 we wanted to change how this was structured; to really do things differently and more local than a weekend away.

“I’d heard about Partnership for Missional Church (PMC), but when I initially asked the diocese didn’t run the programme. However, it really seemed like God was at work when, a few months later, I was contacted by the diocese and asked if we would take part. So we decided to go ahead.

“Partnership for Missional Church is not quick or easy, and it’s not something you do alone. It is more of a journey of exploration. We are in Phase one of three at the moment. This first phase is about listening really deeply, looking for signs of where God is already at work.

“And it’s almost entirely lay led. We’ve been through a period of research and interviewing our community and it’s already been really encouraging to see new people in the church community step forward to do things they haven’t done before.”

The PMC journey is about ‘deep change’. Richard Harrison, a lay Reader at Berrow and Brean, agrees and goes as far as saying that the Partnership for Missional Church process has already rekindled his passion for seeing God at work.

Richard is Leader of the Steering Team and says that when he was first asked to lead the team he was very apprehensive. Many others also had some trepidation about asking people about the church as part of the interviewing and research process, but everyone came back really enthused and fired up.

Richard says “The interview process in particular has been really interesting and a great way to learn more about the people in the Church and the community. One of the things we were asked to do was a timeline event, which was amazing. It brought memories out of people who were remembering the history of the place, and it turns out that next year may be one thousand years since a church has been in this location – we wouldn’t have known that without this process.”

He adds, “We already had connections in the local school and with other organisations, like the Village Agent, but going through the process has helped us to look at people and organisations in our community in a different way. It’s now more about how the church can get involved in the community rather than waiting to be asked.”

Asked if he’d recommend the process to others, Richard replies “yes, but you have to have a team who is willing to step up and the clergy need to be comfortable letting the laity manage the process!”

This article was re-published with permission from Manna Magazine, a publication from the Diocese of Bath and Wells.

Published 5 December 2019
Europe, Middle East and North Africa

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