Gradually, the churches that make up Chelmsford South Deanery are becoming Mission and Ministry Units. One such Unit is "Southwest Chelmsford Churches", which was confirmed at the end of 2016 and will be commissioned on May 6 2017. What follows is their successful application for MMU status in 2016:
As you will see from the historical summary at the end of this document, our five churches (four parishes – Galleywood, Moulsham St John, Moulsham St Luke and Widford)) have been working together for some time. We would now like to ask you to propose that SWCC is officially recognised as a MMU, with a view to formal inauguration in early 2017.
- < >Mission Guidance
SWCC covers a population of around 35000 people in the southwestern corner of Chelmsford. There are pockets with a high level of deprivation (especially the Westlands and Barnard Road Estates, and the park home sites on Bakers Lane) but also areas of affluence (especially parts of Old Moulsham and Galleywood Common). Two major new developments are under construction (the St Johns site, which confusingly is in Widford parish, and the Temple Farm development which will house 1500 Jehovah’s Witnesses).
Each parish has its own mission strategy, but in addition we have identified “isolation” as our priority mission area. For some idea of what we mean by this, please see https://www.cuf.org.uk/Handlers/Download.ashx?IDMF=06a66cd5-15c0-4fe5-a837-f5f417a2d2b7. We think isolation is a key feature of our area, not only for the elderly (though this is certainly a major issue) but also for the young, including young families.
Lynchpins have already started to think seriously about what strategies to combat isolation we can adopt together, and what other agencies we need to be in contact with; this may well include seeking grant funding, though we are not yet at the stage that would make that step appropriate.
We are committed to pioneer and mixed-economy working, including formation of new congregations where appropriate. One of the lead ministers is leading in the area of pioneering, and we already have two messy churches in the Unit (one of which is ecumenical). A small team was formed in 2013 to look at the feasibility of a fresh expression on the St John’s housing development, though it came to the conclusion that this was not practical.
We have ensured that communion is available weekly across the Unit, and that there is provision for all age-groups.
- Ministry and Administrative Guidance
The Unit is called “Southwest Chelmsford Churches” and consists of the following parishes: Galleywood, Moulsham St John, Moulsham St Luke and Widford. Widford comprises St Mary’s Church and the Church of the Holy Spirit.
In keeping with the Deanery Vision (passed by South Chelmsford Deanery Synod Feb 2016 and Bradwell Area Mission and Pastoral Committee March 2016), we are nurturing
- A Unit Team of Clergy. The Unit Team consists of the three Lead Ministers (incumbents) and the Curate, though we are open to others. The clergy meet regularly to pray together, in addition to their business meetings. The incumbents are each licensed to all the churches in the Unit, with specific leadership responsibilities (eg Pastoral Care, Evangelism, Vocation) across the whole Unit.
- Local teams in each church – “Each viable congregation and its associated building(s) will have a “ministry team” of locally rooted leaders, responsible for leading worship, preaching, evangelism, pastoral care and serving the community, supported and trained by the Unit Team” – (Deanery Vision). We have been keen as a group of churches to sponsor lots of lay ministry – so for example in a principal Sunday morning service, four of our five churches have already made the move to having an incumbent/curate present only 50% of the time. Among our lay ministers are three LLMs, one LLM with PTO, two pastoral assistants (with two others in training), four authorised preachers, one Evangelist, two authorised youthworkers, and two administrators; and all our churches are developing others taking on similar roles, usually as part of teams, with a number either having just completed CCS or doing CCS at the moment. With you as a keynote speaker, we held a highly successful “vocations day with a difference” in 2016.
- PCCs in each parish. We have affirmed the principle of subsidiarity – we believe that decision making should be taken at Unit level only for such matters as are less effectively dealt with at PCC level.
- Lynchpins. Two or three lynchpins are elected annually at the APCM of each parish. They meet together with the clergy every seven weeks for communion and to "to determine priorities for the Unit together", and "to help shape the structures that will make Southwest Chelmsford Churches effective at empowering and equipping all God's people". They also have a specific role in organising joint services (typically four a year), determining the Unit’s mission priorities, advising PCCs on such issues as whether other parishes should be invited to join the Unit, and resolving any disputes. Though the Warden of Ministers (see below) is formally the Chair of this meeting, in practice chairing functions are shared out to members, lay and ordained.
- The FAG (Finance and Advisory Group). This group contains all the parish treasurers, a member of the clergy, and anyone else these members choose to invite due to their management or leadership expertise. It provides guidance to PCCs and to the lynchpins on issues of organization, including financial matters such as the allocation of parish share but also more widely.
It was explicit in the way the Unit was set up that its ministry allocation will be reduced by one further incumbent post by 2025 (we have already adjusted from 5 incumbents in 2009 to 3 in 2016). We were encouraged by Bishop John’s assurance that he did not envisage this further adjustment in the next five years, ie till 2021 at the earliest – however, the direction of travel is clear.
- Leadership Guidance
Rev Stephanie Gillingham is presently our “Warden of Ministers”. She is the contact person for the deanery and diocese, and convenes the ministry team. However, we do not see this role in hierarchical terms.
Appendix: Southwest Chelmsford Churches: The Story So Far
- 2009-2011: Launching a Pastoral Community
The document stated the following:
“Every member needs to be empowered to live in his or her community, family, social groups and workplace as a full-time Christian, serving his or her community and telling of God’s love.
Every member also needs to be part of an intimate Christian group, whether a formal group or a set of friends. Smaller parish churches already constitute this intimate group.
From now on, every member will also be part of a larger group in which the fullness of the ministry gifts listed above are put into practice. We call this larger group a pastoral community.
A pastoral community is a dynamic grouping of smaller communities; it is served by a collaborative team of ministers, paid and voluntary, clergy and lay, licensed and unlicensed, whose focus is to equip every member to serve South Chelmsford and tell of God’s love. Its legal status is not the overriding factor, but its fitness for purpose. It is the effective unit for mission and ministry. We are very supportive of pastoral communities working closely with ecumenical partners. … In a pastoral community consisting of more than one parish, no one church and no one incumbent, be they stipendiary or self-supporting, is preeminent (though presumably a chairperson for pastoral community meetings will be appointed); all incumbents – paid or unpaid –have the same status and rights.”
One of these “pastoral communities” was originally called “the Miami churches” (a reference to the Miami Hotel on a roundabout in the centre of the area), and comprised St John’s Moulsham, St Luke’s Moulsham, and the two churches in Galleywood. The position of Widford was more complex; although the deanery synod voted that they should be part of the pastoral community, the PCC declared itself “undecided” on the subject, and Widford did not in practice join in any such conversations.
We would love a Moulsham, Galleywood and Widford Pastoral Community to be formed, known as the Miami Churches It would comprise the following four parishes: Galleywood, Moulsham St Luke, Moulsham St John, Widford. This pastoral community would cover 33,200 people; the active membership would be 550 approx. We would recommend that the diocese “budgets” for 3 stipendiaries in this pastoral community in 2016 (from 5 in 2009); this number could be reduced to 2 by 2022.
Each of the parishes were asked to submit their views on their vision, values, strengths and weaknesses. In 2010, the Moulsham and Galleywood churches met together for their first combined service at St John’s Moulsham and signed a “covenant” to confirm their intention to work together; this was confirmed at services in 2011 at Galleywood and at St Luke’s. Meanwhile, one of two incumbents at Galleywood left the area and was not replaced and Galleywood’s two churches merged into one.
- 2013: Reimagining the Pastoral Community
- one new appointment would be made – that person would be the incumbent of Widford, but spend time in the other parishes, and also take the lead across the Churches in the areas of Evangelism, Education and Worship, as well as being Chaplain at Chelmsford College
- Carol Smith, the Vicar of St Luke’s Moulsham, would become the incumbent of both Moulsham Churches, and also take the lead across the Churches in the areas of Community involvement, Spiritual growth and Pastoral Care
- Andy Griffiths, the Vicar of Galleywood, would give 20% of his time to the other Churches in the Pastoral Community and take the lead in the areas of Pioneering, Vision and Vocation
- all three clergy would be licenced to all four parishes, each acting as “assistant priest” to one another
- the pastoral community would be renamed “Southwest Chelmsford Churches”
- a new body known as the lynchpins would be formed, with lay representation from all the parishes, and meet regularly at St John’s.
Various activities started to be done in common – for example, a six-week course on healing, “In His Name”, led by Carol with Revd, Bridget Jenkinson, drew 35 participants from across the Unit; a SHAPE course and course in pastoral visiting were also very well received, with parish visitors being commissioned and pastoral care teams formed.
The lynchpins were first appointed in 2013. They defined their purpose as follows:
Two to three lynchpins are elected by each parish at their Annual Parish Church Meeting. They meet together with the Lead Ministers,
"to determine priorities for the Unit together", and
"to help shape the structures that will make Southwest Chelmsford Churches effective at empowering and equipping all God's people".
In due course Stephanie Gillingham was appointed incumbent of Widford and Lead Minister for Worship, Education and Evangelism. Interviews were held, with two panels: one included the Bishop, Archdeacon, Widford Parish Reps, Patron and Carol Smith, while the other was chaired by Andy Griffiths and included representatives of the other parishes.
A “mini-order” of people from the parishes, most of whom were in their twenties, was formed in 2013. They took vows in front of the Bishop, and devoted themselves to practices of active love, gratitude, devotion, and practicing the presence of God. A second mini-order (“Pioneer People”) thrived less well.
At a joint service at Church of the Holy Spirit in late 2013, the parish of Widford formally joined Southwest Chelmsford Churches.
- 2014-2016: Becoming a Unit
Stephanie established an Evangelism and mission group with members from all four parishes. They met regularly for two years - seeing us through the successful accomplishment of a Parish mission week-end in each Parish and on to further projects in the following year. The group sponsored the creation of evangelism and/or mission opportunity groups established within each of the parishes, and those parish groups have now taken over the responsibilities of the Unit-wide group.
For two years, volunteers ran a Unit-wide youth group, which met in Widford Rectory. This group has now ceased to meet because the young people have grown up - although Stephanie still has contact with some of them at Chelmsford college.
A Course in Christian Studies Course, open to all from the Unit, ran very successfully in Widford from 2014-2016.
As part of the creation of a new Deanery Vision, we gave active consideration to joining with other parishes to make a larger Unit – whether parishes in north Chelmsford (Writtle, Roxwell, Ascension, Melbourne) or to the south (Downham, South Hanningfield, Ramsden Bellhouse). We are open to any such conversation in due course, but think it best to continue as we are for the moment. We understand that the number of paid incumbents is likely to decrease from 3 to 2 by 2025, but do not believe this change should happen soon given that our Unit has already decreased from 5 to 3 since 2009.
The lead ministers put their thoughts on the leadership structures of SWCC in writing as follows in late 2014:
The leadership of the Unit is dispersed.
There is no “Unit leader”; rather, authority lies in four places.
*First (and legally this is the most important), with our four PCCs …
*Second, there are the “translocal” lead ministers – Stephanie Gillingham, Andy Griffiths and Carol Smith. None of us is the “Unit Leader”, though one of us is the Warden of Ministers and convenes them regularly for consultation and prayer. Each of us has a role description that gives us responsibilities for specific churches, but also for aspects of the life of the whole Unit. John Dunnett acted as a facilitator and consultant in the original formation of the Unit and the creation of our leadership structures.
*Third, there are other ministers, including Gemma Fraser, a Curate who serves the Unit. We believe that each of our churches needs a local ministry team.
*And fourth, there are “lynchpins” – two lay people from each parish (note that the two Widford Churches form one parish) who, together with the ordained, meet every 7 weeks to direct our common life and check everything is going right.
Andy, Carol and others were involved in leading a course for service leaders and preachers in the Moulsham churches in 2015; the other churches in the Unit have tended to do this training “in-house” with support from the diocese as appropriate.
In autumn 2015, Andy Griffiths was appointed as our second Warden of Ministers, in succession to Carol Smith; however, he was appointed literally on the toss of a coin and we do not see this post as being a hierarchical one. He started using a logo. In February 2016 the decision was taken by lynchpins not to seek a legal structure (such as a Team Ministry). Rather, we adopted the principle of subsidiarity, with PCCs taking most decisions and lynchpins in an advisory role. At this point, we also created the “Finance and Advisory Group” (FAG) made up of treasurers and others. We usually join our Churches together for United Services wherever there is a fifth Sunday of the month. Although this is not essential for Unit formation, lynchpins were unanimous that it is beneficial for us.
The key task for 2016 has been deciding on a Mission Priority Area; we see this as key to our health as a Unit, and have no wish to become so consumed in organisation that we forget that we exist for the benefit of our non-members – of whom there are presently around 35 000! At the joint service in 2013 that inaugurated the Unit, young people prepared some very purple panels that refer to Acts 16.13-14 – “convinced that God has called us to bring the good news”, we are getting together as a team for the mission he has in mind. At the moment we see “Isolation” as the MPA, and have been researching how to work with other agencies to combat it.
Stephanie Gillingham took on the role of Warden of Ministers in September 2016. We would love to be formally recognised as a Unit in early 2017.