Saturday, July 04, 2015

Fresh Expressions of Vicar 4: My Generation*, Your Generation, Regeneration

The CofE cannot continue as it is. The Church that hundreds of Curates are being ordained to serve this weekend will be very different in 20 years time: have we prepared them for the church of the past of the church of the future? Guest blogger Andy Griffiths continues his thoughts on Titus as a model for CofE ordained ministry....

The final theme I see in Titus is that of the generations.  This is a book all about discipleship – but there is no expectation that Titus will “disciple” the Cretan Christians himself.  Rather, as we see in Titus 2.3-5
The older women … [are to] urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind…
and we can infer a similar dynamic with the older and younger men.

Before Titus leaves Crete, he is to have established the sort of church where the generations interact healthily, for the sake of Christian maturity.  How this can be done is another matter entirely.

The country is filled with churches that prioritise the needs of one, or at most two generations, and then co-opt incumbents to be the chaplain for that age group – this most commonly happens where churches are institutionally age-ist (so music, language and preaching style disenfranchises younger parishioners), but it is by no means unknown for a younger generation to “take over” and exclude their elders.

I believe it would be a mistake to concentrate on the separation of the sexes (crucial in first and second century Crete, no longer very relevant in Essex), and should instead ask how incumbents can be sponsors of intergenerational relationships for the good of all.  This is an area where my performance has been poor, though we have sponsored “team-preaching” on six occasions (the sermon being delivered in dialogue by one person in their 40s and one person in their teens)

On Monday, Caroline Gemma and I (aged 47, 51 and 35 but not in that order!) met to plan Holiday Club.  We have about 100 children coming, aged 5-10, about 10 young leaders aged 11-18, and about 6 retired leaders, plus ourselves.  Our discussions focussed on how we could help the event be intergenerational.  We decided that the children would be assigned to groups, each led by 11-18s, who would be the primary storytellers; but each secondary student would be assigned an adult leader to support them, ensure proper safeguarding, encourage them and step in only when needed.  We would love these relationships to continue into the future.

The bottom line is this: when I, like Titus, leave the local church for which I’ve presently been assigned the “cure of souls”, I want there to be a discipling culture so strong that it won’t depend on the next incumbent to underwrite it; and that culture has to be an intergenerational one.  Ask me how this is going in a couple of years.

Church tradition tells us that once he had spent a few years in Crete, Titus’ next assignment was in Dalmatia (what we would call the Croatian coast).  Such is the lot of the incumbent – unlike the ministry team, who are generally longterm members of the local church, we move on to new assignments, hoping that we have made ourselves dispensable enough for our successors not to have to struggle as hard as we did to be successful at equipping from the margins.

A few years ago, I was given an icon of Titus by a colleague who had just visited Crete.  An elderly Titus is in Crete, reading the scroll of the letter sent to him as a young man.  And if church tradition is right, Titus did indeed, eventually, end up back in Crete – not as a member of an apostolic team, but as an old man, retiring back to the scene of his earlier ministry.  Now finally, the story says, he has the chance to be a part of a local church team as an overseer.

The icon captures the moment that he reaches the part where Paul declares that Jesus’ purpose was
to purify for himself a people that are his very own, zealous to do what is good.

He looks into the middle distance.  Possibly, the icon writer intended that Titus is looking on us, seeing how we are doing with the legacy he left us.

If you’ve read all four of these reflections: respect!  Thank you for your patience.  What do you think?

Andy Griffiths is now an Area Dean (“middle management in the Church of England”) and Vicar in Essex, and has been guest blogging this week about incumbent ministry.  This is the fourth and last post. Follow the Titus Series tag to read the others, or click...
Part 1 - from manager to team member
Part 2 - from do-it-all to enabler on the margins
Part 3 - keeping the main thing the main thing: but what is it?

* The Who's recent gig at Glastonbury 'inspired' the title of this post. 'People try to put us down' takes on a whole new meaning when the band are all in their 70s. If the song was released today, it might be seen as a protest against legalised euthanasia. 


  1. Here's a related point (over)stated more entertainingly: Andy Griffiths

  2. First, an aside. I was pleased to see that you describe yourself as an enabler, a word that suddenly seems to have developed negative connotationsn when I wasn't looking. See here: Enablement — a new pondian difference? | Notes from underground.

    I hope you never stop using it in its po0sitive sense.

    But, more to the point, I was onse a mission enable in the Anglican diocese of Pretoria. There many rural parishes had a central parish church, and lots of outstations (chapelries). The incumbent used to be a "Mass nomad" (as one priest described it), with a timetable that gave the different congregations a monthly (or less frequent) Eucharist. I maintained that the outstations should aim at having teams of self-supporting priests and deacons (preferably more than one of each in each outstation), and the job of the vicar/rector (who need not necessarily be ordained) would be to give them training and support -- an enabler, in other words.

  3. I was interested to see that you described yourself as a "mission enabler". I discovered that the word "enabler" had developed a negative connotation while I wasn't looking. See here: Enablement — a new pondian difference? | Notes from underground

    The rest of my comment, which dealt with the content of the post, was lost by Firefox, which jammed and I had to reboot. I might make it again later.