Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Under inspection

Last night the church officers met with Archdeacon Bill Thomas for a new style 'Visitation'. No longer the public inspection of church registers, and a formal address attempting to read the runes on the basis of annual statistical and financial reports in the context of a Deanery act of worship. This new effort, coupled with a separate personal appraisal meeting between Bill and myself, seeks to engage parish leadership in discussion around the parochial 'Mission Action Plan' - a sort of 'to-do list' combine with a purpose and mission statement. Our parish MAP is now in its fifth year and has survived transition from Rectorial Benefice to small city parish.

Basically, this is a document which I devised and proposed in the first place, which which has been revised in the light of on-going experience and discussion. I believe it's important as a means to recognise and value the various components of parish life and activity which work well and should not be taken for granted, but also gently to keep under scrutiny things we're not comfortable about but can work at carefully, so that they don't slide neglected into crisis.

There is also a further component, which is having one forward looking ambition or intention, which may well be a project in the making - in our case it's been tourism development over the past three years. This has converged with maintenance needs, painting, repairs, and making the church interior safer and more user friendly, so that now all our routine mid-long term tasks are starting to focus on the 'higher' objective of giving all our thousands of annual visitors a deeper experience of Christian heritage and hospitality, as the context for our evangelistic witness. All this has evolved with each year's MAP review.

On top of all this, the fortunate and unexpected reception of the £30k FCCBF research funding has led to ecumenical collaboration precedent in times of failing church institutions. So when we look back at where we were a year ago - just starting an interregnum at the most demanding time of year, entailing the formal division of the Benefice and where we are now - the parish MAP tells us we've done more than survive. In fact we can delight and give thanks for achievement beyond expectation. Funnily enough it seems to have been like that most years since we began the process, the best part of a year before the diocese started to insist that everyone did it.

I'm always happy to praise my PCC and officers for the things they make happen - always with a smile and good humour - so it was very nice to let Archdeacon Bill loose on the affirmative action, for a change. He picked up on most of what the MAP documents had indicated. However, I was a bit surprised to discover that he was unaware of our FCCBF grant and project. Did I copy him in on my email about it to the Bishops? Did it not even rate a mention at the Senior staff meeting? Well, if the response to project press coverage next weekend leads to further journalistic interest, I hope there's something about this on file at HQ, or else the diocesan press officer will be embarassed. I'm incommunicado during this spell of holiday leave.

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