New nationwide assets strengthen the interim ministry

New nationwide assets strengthen the interim ministry

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The Diocese of Chelmsford has released new national resources to support and expand interim service in the Church of England.

The resources, including a website and source book, were released late last month and funded by the Church Commissioners' Strategic Development Fund (SDF). Similar resource hubs for interim service have been established by churches in the United States and Canada, where interim service has been in place for longer.

Interim ministerial positions (IM) are traditionally short-term appointments to fill short-term gaps between terms of office. The posts that can be placed or ordained can give churches “respite” to recover from breakdown and disaster, prepare for longer-term pastoral reorganization, or help the PCC solve specific problems (Commentary, Jan. 20 2017).

Chelmsford Diocese IM and job development advisor Helen Gheorghiu Gould said, “The Interim Ministry is about managing change: it is about making short-term strategic appointments to help the communities manage their circumstances to review, reflect on scripture and mission and where God calls them to do so; consider their assets and resources and explore a vision for the future. "

Changes to the law approved by the General Synod in July 2015 enabled short-term appointments of clergy during the joint term of office, so that IMs could be deployed on a large scale (News, July 17, 2015). Since then, the Diocese of Chelmsford has been studying IM as part of a broader transformation program, Turnaround, funded by the SDF. The project – to help communities struggling with challenges related to leadership, decline, conflict, or problems with buildings – tested 16 time-limited appointments in 46 different settings, from individual communities to multi-community services, teams, ministries, and dean's offices .

In introducing IM resources to Zoom, the Archbishop of York, most revered Stephen Cottrell, who until recently was Bishop of Chelmsford, said the C of E is not a "one size fits all" approach to the ministry. "In many contexts where the churches were either struggling or where a really different approach was required, tentative service has literally been a godsend that enabled renewal, growth and change, and enabled the church to flourish."

Archbishop Cottrell was referring to a small survey of the Interim Ministry between 2015-2020 that found that IM appointments were beneficial, bringing stability and security to communities and “untangling” difficult situations. Of the 43 people from 17 dioceses who took part in the survey, most of whom were IMs, all said the interim ministry was effective and beneficial. less than three percent said it was ineffective and disappointing.

However, respondents requested further recognition of IM as a calling; Training and resources; Networking and mutual support; and clear opportunities for curators, non-fellow ministers and clergymen in retirement or about to retire.

A word cloud of IM trainees in January on what values ​​are important to IM

The new resources try to fix these problems. The source book, which covers the history, practice, theology and issues of the IM Department, is used to brief the pilot training program for approximately 30 IMs in England, which began in January. There are already annual IM conferences, networks and guides in place.

Ms. Gheorghiu Gould resigned from her IM post last week, but a steering group is being formed to continue her work on the national IM program which will be part of the Church's vision and strategy stream.

She said, “When many of us started IM 5 to 6 years ago, we felt like us and learned from experience. But in retrospect, it seems that God is preparing IM “for a time like this” (Esther 4.14) when the Church needs it most. This work is now credible and effective and has been tested in the Church of England for the past five years.

“With the pilot IM training program in January, we started building a cohort of IMs with an exceptional gift for the Minister during challenging times. and we stand ready to equip parishes for transition with tools that can give them hope and confidence for a future in which traditional models of ministry need to be rethought. "

Last year, the Chelmsford Diocesan Synod officially approved a proposal to cut 61 clergy scholarships and another 49 posts by the end of 2021 if the financial situation has not improved (News, December 4, 2020). The Interim Department is being considered for positions classified as red on a new traffic light system (News, Jun 12, 2020) that are unable to cover the average cost of a full-time fellowship priest of £ 80,180.

When asked if IM agencies were just another cost-cutting measure to offset the decline in diocesan income exacerbated by the pandemic, Ms. Gheorghiu Gould said, “It would be wrong to combine the two because we have been working on developing IM since 2015 in Chelmsford. In fact, we're using fewer IMs right now. It's just a perfectly coordinated present for the present moment.

“However, my greatest concern is that if dioceses do not follow best practices and use IM effectively, we will be wasting this gift. As we learned at Chelmsford, IMs are not a cheap solution, but strategic deadlines that need to be used well and carefully. These aren't just stop gap posts. . .

“When used properly, these appointments can really harness energy and enthusiasm and be the key to revitalizing and renewing communities, which is exactly what we need right now. Dioceses simply do not do this by using IM as an opportunity to "relax" or "cut costs": they will only destabilize parishes and clergy. There are also some fairly solid guidelines from the Archbishops' Council on the use of IM, and it is not in anyone's interest to see these undermined. "

Just as the church woke up to the value of IM, the funds were almost spent, she said. "It's not going to do much if it just sits on a website that looks pretty: it needs to be recorded and used."

Archbishop Cottrell concluded, “I pray that IM will become a normal part of the way we work. . . As we move to another world beyond Covid and are aware of the great challenges we face, we should hopefully raise our expectations that God will bless and lead His Church. "

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