The Diocese of Leicester is on a journey we are calling ‘Shaped By God Together’.
The world around us has changed significantly over recent years. So, as we live out our faith and seek to grow in numbers of disciples, depth of discipleship and loving service of the world, we need to learn new ways to engage with an ever-changing world.
Looking to the future, we want to prioritise our work with children, young people and families, especially through partnership with our schools. We also want the mission and ministry across the diocese to be sustainable, both financially and in terms of the pastoral burden on clergy, lay ministers and church officers. We have heard and time again that we cannot continue as we are, and simply stretch our resources ever thinner.
Out of the ‘Shaped by God Together’ process of discernment, reflection and conversation, about twenty Minster Communities will be formed by 2026.
Minster Communities are groups of churches and fresh expressions working collaboratively and sharing resources to enable effective mission.
The aim behind Minster Communities is to establish a sustainable and mission-focused foundation for the worshipping communities across our Diocese. Our five diocesan strategic priorities will also be fulfilled through Minster Communities:
- New Communities - reimagining church for those who don’t do church - including fresh expressions of church, church planting and church revitalisation
- Intercultural Communities - reimagining church as a place where people of different cultures worship, celebrate and share together.
- Intergenerational Communities - reimagining church as a place where people of different ages worship, celebrate and share together.
- Eco communities - reimagining church as a place where creation is celebrated and nurtured.
- Reconciling Communities - reimagining church and society such that people with different views live together well.
Different parts of the diocese are at different stages of the Shaped By God Together journey. Launde became our first Minster Community, officially launched in April 2023. You can read the lessons learned from piloting the process so far here.
We have developed a number of resources for those communities who have not yet begun the facilitation process:
Discussion Starter. This is designed to help your church or fresh expression take stock of where you have been placed by God and who you are as a church. Doing this gives you a chance to think about what you could offer to a future Minster Community and what benefits you may gain from joining in partnership with other worshipping communities
Holy Habits – This is an introduction to the practices of Dwelling in the Word and the Community Examen, tools to keep us open to being shaped by God together.
We know that the Shaped by God Together journey raises a lot of questions. So we have compiled a list of FAQs to address those you may have. You can also find out more of the background to Minster Communities and the process through which they are formed on The Hub. If you would like to speak to the Shaped By God Together team directly, you can email Claire.email@example.com.
The Story So Far
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. The Gathering Stories, Generating Insight was coordinated by the Organisational Learning Group, led by Rob Hay, and a series of Shaped By God Together Working Groups were formed. The Finance Group looked at the financial challenges faced by churches and the diocese. The Ministry Group 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, explored supportive roles centrally and locally.
In February 2021, Synod members were 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 of those conversations can be found here.
Out of the Shaped by God Together working groups, three ministry models were proposed for the diocese to consider. In April and May 2021, deanery webinars were held for local leaders to learn more about the potential ministry models and to be equipped to run local conversations about them. Bishop Martyn asked every church and worshipping community to hold a prayerful Local Conversation, and the data which was generated from these conversations was then analysed by the Shaped by God Together programme team. 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.
At a two-day meeting of Bishop's Council, Area Deans, Lay Deanery Chairs and some Diocesan Officers in July 2021, it was concluded that there were positive elements in both models A (Minsters) and B (Mission Areas) to take forward, and that the Bishop's Leadership Team would create a single model which would draw from both of these frameworks. The resulting model was that of Minster Communities. This was considered in depth at another meeting of Bishop’s Council, Area Deans, Lay Deanery Chairs and some Diocesan Officers in September, and they voted strongly in favour of recommending the diocesan framework of Minster Communities to Diocesan Synod.
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). Based on this 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.
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