At last week’s Synod, the meeting was updated on the progress made on forming Minster Communities and had a chance to hear from five people involved in different ways and at different stages in the process. You can read the paper which Claire Bampton, Diocesan Programme Manager, gave to Synod here.
Since Synod last met, the first Minster Community, in the Launde area, was launched at a service presided by Bishop Martyn. Synod heard from a worshipper at one of the churches in the Minster Community, Madeleine Wang, and the lay chair of the neighbouring deanery, Gordon Arthur who was an observer to the formation process.
One of the themes of the five interviews with people involved in the Shaped by God Together journey was that of learning and adapting the process based on people’s feedback and reflections. Clare King, Deacon at St Chad’s, for example, shared how the North East Leicester grouping had wanted to get to know each other better at the very start of the journey. Taking that on board, the process now begins with a story-telling exercise, so that people have an opportunity to, as Clare put it, “see beyond the labels”.
Another upshot of learnings from the Minster Community pilots is to begin working with greater areas from which multiple Minster Communities can be formed, rather than defining the boundaries beforehand. Now, all local churches will collectively decide the shape of the grouping to then work together on forming a Minster Community. We are just beginning to work with the first larger area across the north-east of the diocese to form two Minster Communities. From that area, Synod heard from Vic Allsop, church warden, and Crystal McAllister, pioneer minister, about their fears and hopes for the next stages.
Claire also described how Bishop Martyn had, at the beginning of the year, commissioned an independent facilitator to conduct a significant listening exercise, with all clergy, lay leaders, church wardens, ordinands, and curates not involved in a pilot Minster Community invited to a series of focus groups. A report of the findings from that exercise is available here.
It was commonly expressed in those focus groups that people wanted the process of forming a Minster Community in their area to start as soon as possible. So, we are looking for funding from the central Church of England to increase our capacity to facilitate the Shaped By God Together conversations through which churches are able to form Minster Communities. If successful, we hope to be able to invite churches in the north-west of the diocese to begin the process later this year.
People involved in focus groups also described wanting more information about Minster Communities, so we have updated our website with a new set of FAQs. You may also want to recommend your PCC members and worshippers sign up for Diomail as we will be sharing more Shaped by God Together news and stories in the coming weeks and months.