Update from Helen Wolfson, Vision Support Officer
Exciting news sometimes comes in disguise. The ‘Archdeacons Articles of Enquiry’ was a term new to me when I started supporting the Diocese of Gloucester with its LIFE vision. It sounded like a very arcane, and possibly slightly painful, document that might have something to do with fading copies of the yellow pages.
However, I’ve learnt that things that sound a little dull, can bring huge excitement into LIFE!
If, like me, you’ve never heard of them, it might help to know that the Archdeacons Articles of Enquiry are sent to churchwardens every year, and help share news about specific things that are happening in parishes across the Diocese. They include different questions every year – questions around safeguarding, and in the past have included questions about nurture groups, prayer, and even about bats and toilets.
This year churchwardens were asked to share what their parishes were already doing in relation to the LIFE vision priorities, and what they were planning to do. These questionnaires were returned via the Area Deans (thank you area deans!), to the archdeacons in College Green, where the very patient Alice typed all the responses into a huge spreadsheet (thank you Alice!). And what a lot of responses – 261 at the time of writing. Thank you churchwardens!
The responses make for very interesting reading. They show that across this Diocese, parishes can already see themselves engaging in the LIFE vision, and are planning to do more to take forward their mission and ministry over the year ahead.
Some of the comments shared also celebrated developments in parish life:
Developing diverse leadership
“Two people are exploring their vocation and seeking training as lay pastors.”
Liberating models of leadership
“As a benefice of 9 Churches – we have lay led worship with differing styles of leadership, lay involvement in pastoral care supported by lay pastor course. We have Lectio Divina on weekly basis. The ‘Thrive’ group are looking at priorities for the benefice.”
Investing in our engagement with baptism families
“Our baptism service has been recently updated to be more accessible to people who are not regular churchgoers. Families will be invited to a summer baptism party and given information about family services and other events.”
Encouraging new and courageous ways of worshipping, in different places, which connect with more people
“We had a very successful Harvest event for families at our primary school. Games and a barbeque were organised, 60 people attended”
Approaching the use, upkeep and future of our buildings in bold and creative ways
“We are awaiting faculty approval for the re-ordering of the interior of the church building. The purpose is to provide toilets/ Refreshments area, better seating and making more space to accommodate church activities e.g Messy Church, Church social activities and make the building more appealing to non church activities/events such as concerts.”
Being advocates for human flourishing
“We are actively engaged in mission to our local care home. Particularly with respect to residents with dementia issues.”
And, of course, struggles were shared and named:
“As small rural parishes our commitment will be modest but we will engage as best we can.”
“Due to lack of church members we have to put all of our energies into keeping the church going especially during a vacancy”
So, that’s all very lovely. But what next?
Over the coming few months, those people from across the Diocese working as part of LIFE priority groups, will be trying to make contact with parishes which have expressed a particular interest in a particular priority – either to find out more about what they are already doing and share those stories, or to discover whether they would like to engage in collective activities around a particular priority. Part of my role is coordinating with those groups, to make sure that the ‘dots get joined up’ in a way in which is coherent. If you have a story to share, or something that you would like to find out more about in a particular area, please do get in touch.