Saturday, September 15, 2007

Mission Shaped Parish - Bayes & Sledge

'Biscuit Tin', our 3-yearly Deanery mission newsletter is nearly ready to go. Here's an extract:

Bitesized Books: Paul Bayes & Tim Sledge Mission Shaped Parish (Church House 2006)

Over the last year a torrent of ‘Mission-Shaped’ titles has flowed from Church House, on Youth, Children, Spirituality, and Rural church. Each is an attempt to put flesh on the bones of the ‘Mission Shaped Church’ report, and explore what it looks like in particular contexts. If you have anyone who oversees your childrens work, then ‘Mission Shaped Children’ by Margaret Withers is well worth getting hold of. (and if you are in a rural setting ‘Rural Children, Rural Church’ by Rona Orme is very good, also from Church House)

‘Mission Shaped Parish’ focuses on how a traditional Anglican Parish Church can do all the things it normally does, but with a mission heartbeat. Various chapters cover the origins of the parish church, occasional offices, worship, welcome, nurture and church structures. There are also specific chapters on civic churches, cathedrals, and the mission story of one traditional Eucharistic parish church.

From the start the book throws out any sense that it’s offering a new ‘solve everything’ technique: “there are no quick answers. Simply pinching a few examples of good practice for your own church is not recommended.” In fact, the authors argue that new initiatives are the bane of the church: “an anxious church is a church beset by initiatives…wise church people have learned to spot initiatives gathering in the distance, likes storm clouds… the response is automatic; keep your head down and wait until it passes”

Churches can fall into two traps in response to the mission challenge. One is a frantic scrabble for some initiative that will ‘get bums on pews’, the other is to do nothing. The authors argue for a 3rd approach, one which starts with getting our values right – working out what is vital to the life of the church, and then allowing our actions (and initiatives) to flow out of deeply-held convictions and values. Bayes and Sledge focus on 5 values found in mission-shaped churches:
- worship,
- incarnation (being rooted in your community)
- transformation (shaping the community by the gospel),
- making disciples,
- relationship.
These may sound a bit strange to some, but are pretty close to what it means to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic, just in different language. They also relate quite closely to our Diocesan tagline of 'Changing Lives, Changing Churches for Changing Communities'

The detailed chapters on various aspects of church life are very helpful, a good basis for reviewing and renewing everything from worship to baptisms to PCC meetings. I particularly like the definition of Deanery Synod as “A group of Anglicans waiting to go home”, but the book holds out hope that even our most turgid meetings can, with a clear mission rationale, be transformed into something dynamic and useful.

There is plenty of wisdom here, most of the chapters stand alone and can be dipped into, and it all seems grounded in the realities of parish life.

find the book here.

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