Anglican Communion News Service
From the Church in Wales
A radical new vision for the future of the Church in Wales is set out in a report launched today.
Supersize parishes run by teams of vicars and lay people, creative ideas for ensuring churches stay at the heart of their communities and investing further in ministry to young people are among the report’s recommendations following an independent root and branch review.
The Church in Wales commissioned the review a year ago to address some of its challenges and to ensure it was fit for purpose as it faced its centenary in 2020. Three experienced people in ministry and church management examined its structures and ministry and heard evidence from public meetings across Wales attended by more than 1,000 people.
On the Review Group were: Lord (Richard) Harries of Pentregarth, former Bishop of Oxford, who chaired it; Professor Charles Handy, former professor of the London Business School; and Professor Patricia Peattie, first chairwoman of the Lothian University Hospitals NHS Trust and former Chair of the Episcopal Church in Scotland’s Standing Committee.
Their report will now be presented to the Church’s Governing Body for consideration.
It makes 50 recommendations which include:
- Parishes replaced by much larger ‘ministry areas’ which would mirror the catchment areas of secondary schools, where possible, and be served by a team of clergy and lay people;
- Creative use of church buildings to enable them to be used by the whole community;
- Training lay people to play a greater part in church leadership;
- Investing more in ministry for young people;
- Developing new forms of worship to reach out to those unfamiliar with church services;
- Encouraging financial giving to the church through tithing.
The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, welcomed the report. He said, “We are enormously indebted to the Review Group because it has absorbed a great deal of information about us as a church in a short period of time and has made some very perceptive and insightful comments and recommendations. I am also grateful to members of the Church in Wales who in large numbers have enthusiastically engaged with the process. We, as a church, will have to give serious consideration to this report and its recommendations from parish up to province and decide where we go from here.”
Lord Harries said, “The Review Team found the Church in Wales to be very warm and welcoming and there are many good things happening. But in order to serve the people of Wales effectively, particularly its young people, we believe some radical re-thinking is necessary.”
The full report is online at http://www.churchinwales.org.uk/review .
The Review Group held public meetings in all of the six Welsh dioceses – at Cardiff, Abergavenny, Carmarthen, Bangor, St Asaph and Brecon – between November 2011 and January this year. People were also invited to send in written submissions. Separate meetings were held with senior clergy from each diocese, bishops’ advisers, ordinands and staff from Wales’ theological college, St Michael’s College, Cardiff, and senior staff from the Representative Body. In March they met a delegation of young people from across the Church to hear their views.
At the open meetings people were asked what aspect of both their diocese and the Church they felt most positive about and what changes they would like to see to make its ministry more effective. They were also asked how they would address challenges such as the predicted fall in clergy numbers and financial resources.
The Church in Wales is moving in the direction of a radical re-assessment of the present resources and ministry available for the propagation of the Gospel in a rapidly changing scenario of cost and availability of resources to continue the work of the local Church.
In a time of the shortage of recruits to the full-time ministry of the Church – and the cost of training and supporting them – allied to the fact of a greater mobility for people to attend more centrally- placed worship venues, where some church buildings are needing significant financial resource for maintenance and repair – this radical attention to the management of resources in overdue.
With the problems of resourcing appearing in our own Diocese of Christchurch (after the recent earthquakes, where congregations are faced with problems of replacement of church buildings and the adequate sourcing of full-time ministry for every parish); such a radical re-ordering of priorities has already been signalled by Bishop Victoria Matthews and the diocesan authorities, and is to be addressed in the very near future.
In the days when parishes were first instigated, and new churches built, these were envisaged to accommodate the burgeoning needs of a growing population in the local area, where transport was unavailable for travel to churches outside of a two or three-mile radius. however, with today’s mobility of population, a rationalisation of the number of church buildings may well be called for. This will cause heartbreak for families whose lives have been tied to their local church; but perhaps the time is coming when a better-focussed concentration of plant and ministries becomes inevitable. After all, we are constantly being reminded that the Church is People, not just Buildings.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand