Reflection from Nanpantan on beginning the Minster Community formation process

David Martin, a worshipper at St Mary's, Nanpantan, wrote a reflection on his experience of the first Minster Community formation meeting for North West Leicestershire, which he has kindly agreed can be shared more widely across the diocese.

During the two hour event, Bishop Martyn and his team spent almost half of the time answering questions from the audience, including several from our own parish. And although there were certain points raised by the audience where the team said such matters were still evolving, overall every question was answered candidly and without hesitation. 

That transparency was evident from the outset. Indeed, I was slightly surprised by just how open and transparent Bishop Martyn was in his opening speech. From the outset, he explained that, from all the data available, it is clear that the existing structure is not sustainable. Change has to happen. 

That said, he was adamant that this was definitely not a management exercise - God is leading us.

Bishop Martyn acknowledged that change is difficult. He said from his own personal perspective, the easy thing to do was to do nothing, but that didn’t feel the right thing to do. 

It was clear that Bishop Martyn sees the relationship with schools as critical. In our diocese, we have 23,000 children in Church of England schools that, by law, must teach Christianity.  He gave an example where he recently visited a secondary school where 200 Year 8 pupils were participating in Bible study after school.

Throughout the event the word 'Leadership' kept coming up, but it was in the context of self-leadership i.e. it is not for the Bishop and his team to dictate how Minster Communities will operate; it is for all of us to move forward in the way we want to - it is a local discernment.  Can we opt out? Yes we can, it is our legal right.  But going forward, while the appointment process for vicars will be consistent with existing practice (i.e. we will continue to have a say), all future appointments in the diocese will be made to Minster Communities.

Why should we participate?  We are part of the people of God for the whole area; we have a gift to share. If this new framework helps promote Christianity and the Church of England, particularly amongst the younger community, it must be worth exploring as a potential way forward.  We need to work together to facilitate change and find a sustainable model. 

Minster Communities is not just a step forward in that transformation journey, it is also a wonderful opportunity to share knowledge, learn, meet new people and help others. It is not necessarily going to be straightforward; we will inevitably feel the pull of the safety blanket that is “let’s just go back to the way things were”, but over the next 12-18 months we should be able to work together to find a solution that works for us all.

Clearly, a huge amount of effort has gone into this review and the diocese's leadership team have listened to feedback from the piloting of the process. Similarly, the leadership team were noticeably engaged with the audience throughout the evening and will no doubt take on board all of the questions and feedback provided during the event.

I am already looking forward to the next event to hear more about the proposed framework that will help us shape how we want to move forward at St Mary’s.

First published on: 15th November 2023
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