Shaped By God Together

How do we retain a missional presence in every parish, proclaim the gospel and enable every Christian to live out their Everyday Faith in the face of the challenges we face? How do we best equip our worshipping communities to pursue our vision of the Kingdom of God and our diocesan strategic priorities? These are the questions that we have been wrestling with as a diocese, as we seek to be Shaped By God Together (SBGT).

We have produced a new set of FAQ's in relation to the new diocesan framework and the SBGT process from here. Download here.

A written question was brought to the May 2022 Synod meeting: 

"Please can you let us know how the work on the Minster Communities is developing and what kind of conversations we can be having in our parishes to help us prepare for it? Also what prayers would you be encouraging us to say?" Read the response here.

The Background
We are facing both exciting opportunities and significant constraints upon us as a Church as we continue to seek to be ‘Shaped by God Together.' We have constraints of finance, including the use of our historical assets as well as our current patterns of giving, of ministry, including the developments of pioneers, the retirement and recruitment patterns of clergy and lay ministers, and the development of the whole people of God, and of buildings, including our churches, our halls and facilities. However, our planning for the future cannot be solely dominated by these constraints. God is a God of movement, who calls us to growth and change – and so we need to notice and be open and attentive to the new and exciting things God is doing amongst us and through us - how can we be ‘Shaped by God Together’? We started in autumn 2020 by gathering stories of Everyday Faith from across the diocese as we seek to be faithful to the past, the present, and to our future. Following this some small working groups developed possibilities and three models were considered through more than 400 Local Conversations in the parishes, fresh expressions of church and other worshipping communities who make up our diocesan family. Using the 80,000 words of feedback and discernment by the Bishop’s Council, Area Deans and Lay Chairs, the diocesan Framework of Minster Communities was developed and approved by Diocesan Synod in October 2021 by a strongly favourable vote. Between 2022 and 2026, every parish, fresh expression of Church, clergyperson and lay minister, chaplain and school, will be invited and encouraged to participate in conversation between local context and the diocesan leadership, in order to determine how they find their place within the framework as we form 20-25 Minster Communities across the diocese. Alongside the structural changes (which are likely to involve Joint Church Councils), we are encouraging all worshipping communities to develop how they enable discipleship and encourage vocations, grow in outwardly focused mission, engage with children, young people and schools, and work in partnership across differences.
The process so far

January 2022:

In October 2021 our Diocesan Synod agreed the new minister communities framework for our diocese. This means that we will all be going through change as we move into the new way of working. But for many it may feel like very little is happening or changing right away…. The decision was made and then we all went back to our daily church business. However this is a journey that we will all take and by 2026 we hope that new framework will be fully implemented across the diocese. But this will happen differently for each area and context in each local area.

The video above gives further details about how each community will move from where they are now into Minster Communities by 2026. 

November 2021:

During Novemeber we released this video as an update on the Shaped By God Together Process. Diocesan Synod voted for a new Minster Communities framework for the diocese; what does that mean? And what is next?

Download the video here
Download a transcript of the video which can be printed here

October 2021:
The Diocesan framework of Minster Communities was debated at Diocesan Synod on 9 October, following an introduction in the form of Bishop Martyn’s Presidential Address. A Minster Community will be a "group of parishes" who work together to collaborate in mission without losing their individual identity, and who work alongside their church schools, fresh expressions of Church, chaplaincies etc. An amendment was passed that the stipendiary (paid) leadership team of at least four people (including lay and ordained roles) in each of the 20-25 MCs will be led by an Oversight Minister who is ordained. One of the team will be a Growing Faith focussed minister (lay or ordained) to increase inclusion of children and young people within the ministry of our churches and fresh expressions. As well as the Oversight Minister, the leadership teams will comprise at least (but not limited to, depending on resources) three other stipendiary posts.

Because of the importance of the decision Synod was being asked to take, the Synod papers were published on the diocesan website in advance of the meeting, so that all across the Diocese were aware of the proposed framework. Bishop Martyn also released a video highlighting the valued place of parishes in the ongoing life of the diocese.

The Synod debated with generosity and honesty, for several hours with over 35 people speaking prior to the vote on the substantive motion. The framework was overwhelmingly supported (72%) by Synod, with a greater than 2/3 majority in each of the three “houses” of Synod (bishops, clergy and laity) and it is intended it will gradually be brought into place by 2026, depending on discussions between parishes, schools and fresh expressions working together to decide what their local leadership will be. Bishop Martyn said: “Nothing is going to change overnight and everything will be done in discussion with parishes. Every PCC, school governing body and fresh expression will be involved. Each will decide for itself how they engage with this.” This vote means that we now have a clear mandate to work with our parishes to grow links with schools and increase resources for children and young people and recognise their place in our sacramental ministry.

Full details regarding the Diocesan Framework of Minster Communities as approved by Diocesan Synod is now available to download below:
Download: one-page summary
Download: Full paper including some background and context

September 2021:
A further meeting of Bishop’s Council, Area Deans, Lay Deanery Chairs and some Diocesan Officers took place on 13 September. Work had been undertaken throughout the summer months to develop a diocesan framework. This work sought to bring together the most positive aspects of the two ministry models, A (Minsters) and B (Mission Areas), while addressing the concerns regarding each. The diocesan framework of Minster Communities was considered in depth at the meeting, in a spirit of gracious honesty and prayerful discernment, the meeting voted strongly in favour of recommending the diocesan framework of Minster Communities to Diocesan Synod.

July 2021:
The Shaped By God Together process took an important step forward following a two-day meeting of Bishop's Council, Area Deans, Lay Deanery Chairs and some Diocesan Officers (6-8 July).

Prior to the meeting, Claire Bampton (SBGT Programme Manager) and a team from the Mission and Ministry department had spent two weeks analysing data sent in by parishes following their Local Conversations which have taken place over the last couple of months. This was one of the biggest consultative exercises ever undertaken by the diocese, with 85,000 words from nearly 400 local conversations about the three proposed models of ministry being read and analysed. You can read some of the Local Conversation feedback which was provided to the meeting (in addition to the 80+ page report which they had in advance) by clicking here. The meeting was clear on the need for change in light of missional imperative, pastoral burden on clergy and laity and financial challenges.

The meeting concluded that there are positive elements in both models A (Minsters) and B (Mission Areas) to take forward, and that the Bishop's Leadership Team will do some work in the next two months with the aim of creating a single model to act as a framework for the diocese that draws from both of these.

This framework will be brought back to an Extended Bishop’s Council in September before going to Diocesan Synod in October for a formal vote. Following that, our worshipping communities will be supported in exploring what the new framework will mean for them in coming years by a series of local conversations about how it can be applied locally to support their own vision and mission.

Bishop Martyn said: “I’m pleased that we’ve been able to take this significant next step on our journey of discernment. I have always been clear that this is a process in which the whole diocese needs to be involved and I am grateful to colleagues for facilitating this listening exercise. We clearly have more work to do to clarify the new framework and then explore with parishes how this can be implemented in their context, acknowledging that it will look different in rural, urban, and suburban areas. But we can be confident that God is reshaping us and God will strengthen us for all that lies ahead.

“We were rightly encouraged by our guests Leicester Cathedral Canon Theologian Cathy Ross and Oxford Brookes University Chaplain Shemil Matthews, to recognise and celebrate our diversity as a “fellowship of the unlike” and to use grace, courage, vulnerability, imagination and resilience as we prayerfully take one step at a time on this journey.”

May and June 2021

During May and early June Bishop Martyn asked every church and worshipping community to hold a prayerful Local Conversation. The conbersations were led by local leaders and will introduced Shaped By God Together and enabled all to explore three possible ministry models together. From that session, we collected feedback on the various options for the way we shape our future ministry. To find out more about the local conversations please click here.

April and May 2021

April and May 2021 During April and May deanery webinars were held for local leaders to learn more about the potential ministry models that have been put forward as part of this process and to be equipped to run local conversations around these models. Transcripts of the live Q&A from these webinars can be downloaded here.  A full document of Q&A from the webinars can be downloaded here.

March 2021

- Further insights from the stories were shared, looking at some of the tensions that have been highlighted during the 'sense making' process.

February 2021

- Synod members were then invited to take part in 14 conversation groups looking at the three areas of focus in the Shaped By God Together process – Ministry, Finance and Buildings. A summary can be found here.

January 2021

- On 18 January 2021 Bishop’s Council met and, amongst other agenda items, received an update on the SBGT process. Bishop Martyn put forward a proposal, which was well supported by Council, that we slow the pace of this process a little, and work towards bringing proposals to Diocesan Synod in the autumn, rather than May. We’ve always known that the SBGT process would require a lot of work and a considerable amount of that has been done already, from the stories shared, insights gathered and the initial work of the workstreams, for which we are very grateful. We need to ensure the wellbeing of all those involved, given the added pressures of this considerable piece of work in the challenging context of ongoing pandemic restrictions. The ideas being developed in the workstreams have surpassed expectations and are already making encouraging progress, and pulling together ideas from what we have learned through story gathering and insights work. We need to ensure that the process is done well and it is becoming clear that we need more time to ensure the decisions we make are the best they can be.

- An invite was sent out to the Shaped By God Together Conversations taking place during February and March.

December 2020

- Insights drawn from the storytelling process were shared:

To read a summary of each insight above click here

November 2020

- Diocesan Synod voted for the SBGT process and priorities.

This video was released explain the timeline for the process along with a downloadable poster that showed the timeline.






- This video was released to explain how diocesan values and priorities underpin the various stages of the Shaped By God Together process

October 2020

- This update was shared in mid October.

September 2020

- Bishop Martyn and Bishop Guli issued a Call to Prayer

- The Gathering Stories, Generating Insight process began. This was coordinated by the Organisational Learning Group, led by Rob Hay.

- Bishop Martyn’s gave a reflection on Psalm 62 and address to Diocesan Synod, 22 September 2020

- This slide was shared with Diocesan Synod on 22 September 2020 as part of a presentation updating on the Shaped By God Together process.

-  A series of Shaped By God Together Working Groups were formed. The Finance Group, led by Jonathan Kerry, looked at the financial challenges faced by churches and the diocese. The Ministry Group led by Stuart Burns explored different possibilities for what the ministry of clergy, lay ministers, and the whole people of God, could look like in the years to come. Archdeacon Richard led the Church Buildings Group. And the Support for Ministry Group, led by Dean David Monteith, explored supportive roles centrally and locally. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
November 2021:
As Diocesan Synod voted for a new Minster Communities framework for the diocese we have produced a new set of FAQ's in relation to this framework and the SBGT process from here
Our priorities
Contact Us
We would love to hear from you if you have any questions or feedback regarding the Shaped By God Together process or the new diocesan framework. Please contact Claire Bampton, Diocesan Programme
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