The Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe has commended the team responsible for delivering a highly successful UK City of Culture programme in 2013. He made his comments during his Presidential Address at the Diocesan Synod in Clooney Hall in Londonderry on Wednesday 23 October.
He said, “A wide-ranging and imaginative selection of shows, performances, projects, conferences and other events, which the Culture Company has coordinated has brought about a further enhancement of the city’s image and profile”. He paid particular tribute to Ms Shona McCarthy saying “ … (she) and her team deserve much credit for drawing up such a successful programme.”
Speaking of the City of Culture Year Bishop Good noted how churches had played their part. This had included “the distribution of a copy of Luke’s Gospel to all 37,000 households in the city; the St Columba Heritage Trail; The Columba Canticles; the Big Weave project and the Bright Brand New Day event, to mention but some of the church initiatives”. To show that churches are committed to all ages in November 200 A-Level RE students from across the city will be taking part in an exploration of Faith and Culture, an event planned and delivered by the churches.
Bishop Good commended the contribution that the city of Londonderry has made to the wider good. He told Synod members how he had invited the House of Bishops here during the UK City of Culture year, for one of their residential conferences. At that event a few weeks ago he said “They were greatly impressed with how the city has given a lead in finding a way forward in contentious issues”.
The Bishop commended “those in leadership positions in the Loyal Orders, residents groups, the police, the business community, and the churches for the patient and careful way in which they have shown courage in finding a way forward in dealing with parades (and) … the approach adopted in this city might serve as an encouragement and an inspiration to other places”. He told members of the Synod how he had invited the House of Bishops here during the City of Culture year, for one of their residential conferences. They came a few weeks ago and were greatly impressed with what they saw and learnt here. One of the issues we focused on was how this city has given a lead in finding a way forward in contentious issues.”
Rev Pat Storey, Rector of St Augustine’s, will be consecrated as the first woman Bishop in the Church of Ireland on 30th November. In congratulating her Bishop Good took the opportunity to present her with her Episcopal Ring, as a gift from the diocese of Derry and Raphoe. He also paid warm tribute to her service in the diocese and in the city of Londonderry.
The Full Text of Bishop Good's address can be found below.
THE CHURCH OF IRELAND
DIOCESES OF DERRY AND RAPHOE
23 OCTOBER 2013
CLOONEY HALL, LONDONDERRY
The Right Revd Ken Good, Bishop of Derry and Raphoe
2013 has been a significant year in this part of the world.
1. THE UK CITY OF CULTURE
It has certainly been a year in which Londonderry has enjoyed a prominent place on the map - as well as on the TV, on the radio and on people’s lips – as the highly successful UK City of Culture.
‘The town I love so well’ is looking very impressive, and credit must be given to the City Council and to all those who have directed significant investment towards the infrastructure and other projects. The Guildhall and its surrounds have been impressively refurbished. The Peace Bridge, Ebrington Square, The quays along the River Foyle, St Columb’s Cathedral, First Derry Presbyterian Church, the Railway line have all been invested in and now greatly enhance the city centre as an attractive place for tourists to visit as well as creating a pleasant environment for its own citizens to enjoy and of which to feel justifiably proud, as I certainly do.
A wide-ranging and imaginative selection of shows, performances, projects, conferences and other events, which the Culture Company has coordinated has brought about a further enhancement of the city’s image and profile. Ms Shona McCarthy and her team deserve much credit for drawing up such a successful programme.
The churches, too, have played our part, in this City of Culture Year. There has been the distribution, as a free gift, of a copy of Luke’s Gospel to all 37,000 households in the city; the St Columba Heritage Trail; The Columba Canticles; the Big Weave project and the Bright Brand New Day event, to mention but some of the church initiatives. Next month, 200 A-Level RE students from across the city will be taking part in an exploration of Faith and Culture, an event planned and delivered by the churches.
2. BISHOP OF MEATH AND KILDARE
Considerable media and public interest, understandably, has surrounded the election of Rev Pat Storey as bishop of Meath and Kildare. Journalists from far and near have been seeking to interview the bishop-elect and it is likely that there will be even more media interest as The Service of Consecration in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin approaches on The Feast of St Andrew, 30 November 2013.
The parishioners of St Augustine’s, where Pat has served with faithfulness and fruitfulness, will greatly miss her ministry; and so, too, will the city and the wider community where she has developed a significant presence, a positive influence and a high media profile. Pat’s editorial gifts have ensured that our diocesan magazine, n:vision, has been a multiple prize-winning publication in General Synod competitions. She has served as a member of Derry and Raphoe Youth (DRY) Board, a member of the Standing Committee and of the Select Committee on Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian belief.
Pat, we thank you very much for the excellent service you have given here in Derry and Raphoe. We will miss you greatly, but we know that your ministry in Meath and Kildare, and also further afield, will be effective, fruitful and appreciated. You are, and will continue to be, in our prayers.
3. A CITY WHICH IS GIVING A LEAD
A Taxi driver was recently reported as having said to a visitor as he drove him from the airport into the city , ‘Derry led the North into the Troubles, and it is now leading it out of them.’
I invited the House of Bishops here during the City of Culture year, for one of our residential conferences. They came a few weeks ago and were greatly impressed with what they saw and learnt here. One of the issues we focused on was how this city has given a lead in finding a way forward in contentious issues.
I wish to commend again those in leadership positions in the Loyal Orders, residents groups, the police, the business community, and the churches for the patient and careful way in which they have shown courage in finding a way forward in dealing with parades. Their efforts have been ably assisted by those with expertise in mediation, and it is indeed true that the approach adopted in this city might serve as an encouragement and an inspiration to other places.
4. LOOKING FURTHER AFIELD -NIGERIA AND UGANDA
Our diocesan Nets Work project has caught people’s imagination not only in Derry and Raphoe but also far beyond. There has been a good deal of media interest in the concerted efforts we are making to provide 20,000 mosquito nets for families in Nigeria. We welcome today two guests from that country, Canon John Okoli and Mrs Nanlope Ogbureke, who are reporting to us on the impact the project is making already in homes and families in their homeland. Over £60,000 has been raised thus far in the diocese, so we are well on our way to the £100,000 target.
As I speak, six members of our Mothers’ Union Team, led by our Diocesan President, Kay Clarke, are on a mission trip in Northern Uganda. I greatly admire their willingness to take this initiative in bringing support, encouragement and financial resources to the members of Mothers’ Union in Arua. We are remembering them in our prayers.
TRANSFORMING COMMUNITY RADIATING CHRIST
For the remainder of this address, I want to comment on issues to do with healthy and growing churches.
I must say that I remain as convinced as ever of the timeliness and relevance of our diocesan vision: Transforming Community Radiating Christ. I remain certain that it is right for us to affirm that we seek growth; we serve in teams and we encourage leaders. Growing Deeper, Growing Closer and Growing wider are key means by which we work towards church health and church growth.
Particularly over the past few months I have sensed a confirmation or reinforcement of what we are seeking to do in the area of church growth, and I want to share these learning points with you as a Diocesan Synod.
The two primary contexts in which I felt the rightness our approach was confirmed were a bishops gathering in Oxford and a visit from the Bishop of London to Londonderry a couple of weeks ago.
If the central question is, ‘How can we prepare for church growth take place?’ I want to suggest six keys or pointers in answer to that question.
1. WHEN A DIOCESE INTENTIONALLY IMPLEMENTS A MISSIONAL STRATEGY.
When the bishops of Church of Ireland, the Church of England, the Church in Wales and the Scottish Episcopal Church, met in Oxford last month one of the topics under consideration was church growth and church decline.
A key learning point which I picked up from the discussion was that in dioceses where there has been a consistent, intentional, strategic and purposeful approach to church growth, such as in London and Liverpool in particular, not only has there been an arresting of decline but there has even been a trajectory of growth. In dioceses where the leadership, the committee structures, the financial budget, the clergy and the people are encouraged around a coherent plan for growth, growth often was experienced.
The diocese has been shown to be a very important unit or vehicle when it comes to growing churches. When a bishop and a diocese are clear about the need for growth, when they have devised and encouraged strategic planning for growth, and reminded parishes again and again that this is what needs to be prioritized,(even to the point of becoming tiresome in the eyes of some!) then the likelihood of growth in parishes increases. My intention is that this diocese will continue to provide the leadership, the strategic thinking, the repeated reminders, the support and encouragement parishes need to keep their focus on growth.
2. WHEN PEOPLE BELIEVE SOMETHING ENOUGH TO BE MISSIONAL
We were fortunate in Derry and Raphoe to have had a visit very recently from the Bishop of London, one of the dioceses where growth is particularly in evidence. Bishop Chartres spoke helpfully about what he has learned about mission and church growth in London, and I took the opportunity, during his brief visit, to film an interview with him about some key learning points. I want to use short video extracts from that interview in the remainder of this address.
Growth most often results when the people in a church believe something enough to be missional. When their faith in Christ is personal and makes a real difference in their life; when there is a sense of having found a pearl of great price and having a longing that others share in that discovery, too.
This is one of the reasons we have been focusing on ‘Growing Deeper’, as a practical means of encouraging personal faith, deepening spiritual roots and strengthening people’s sense of believing so that they are more willing and likely to be missional in the sharing of what they have discovered.
3. WHEN PARISHIONERS BECOME EXCITED WITH REALISTIC GROWTH AMBITIONS
In London, the diocese has sought to help parishes to identify specific, realistic but significant targets or ‘growth ambitions’. The diocese has also set itself goals to achieve, and has thus far done well in achieving them. This in turn has given heart and confidence to the parishes to be expectant and hopeful about growth.
4. WHEN A DIOCESE MOVES FROM GENERAL SUBSIDIES TO INVESTMENT IN MISSION
Any time you start talking about parish assessments, you usually get people’s attention! In a diocese where there is a pooling system, it is very difficult to devise an assessment formula which will suit and please every parish.
I do have concerns about a pooling system which can seem to incentivize decline and be a disincentive to growth.
By that I mean that parishes can be tempted to reduce their assessment by reducing numbers of parishioners by removing from their lists individuals and families who seem to contribute little or nothing, thereby doing away with the fringe, so as to save money in the process. On the other side of the same coin, if a parish grows numerically it can feel penalized, financially, by an increased assessment. So we need to ask this key question about our current assessment system. ‘Are we incentivizing and encouraging growth, or are we, even inadvertently, rewarding decline?’
The Diocese of London has made a very courageous, strategic, and far-reaching move , in the words of Bishop Chartres, ‘from subsidy to investment.’ They have moved away from propping up ministry which appears less effective to instead focusing resources into leadership and ministry in mission and growth. Watch this video clip.
5. WHEN NEW COMMUNITIES OF FAITH ARE TRIED AND PLANTED
At last year’s Diocesan Synod, I opened up the issue of growing or planting new forms of church in some settings. The idea being to gather together a group of people, most of whom probably do not come to church at all at present, in a hall or a community centre or some other venue.
This kind of planting of new communities of faith – including Messy Church and Café Church and new church plants - has been found to lead to the greatest numerical growth, and its effectiveness was again endorsed at at the Oxford conference and by the Bishop of London.
Other dioceses in the Church of Ireland are now taking seriously the opportunities presented by this concept of planting new communities of faith. The Theological Institute is organizing training and conference opportunities to explore the issue. I feel sure that it is right for us to take seriously the possibility in several places in Derry and Raphoe where such planting might prove fruitful.
6. WHEN DIOCESAN COMMITTEE STRUCTURES ARE REVIEWED
For a Diocesan Synod, much of whose business is to hear Reports from Boards and Committees, this final issue may be one of the more exciting or of the more worrying – depending on how deep may be one’s love of committees!
Bishop Chartres’ observation, soon after his arrival in London was that most committees and consultations absorbed and dissipated energy rather than creating and generating it. Hours of meetings produced a minimum of real change, few transformed lives or communities, little new life. So he decided to do away with a sizeable number of the diocese’s myriads of committees!
He opted instead for a more informal project-based approach, geared for growth, which built relationships, developed short-term purposeful teams, saw levels of people’s energy, commitment and expectancy rise and saw situations change, tasks achieved, and growth take place.
After living without many committees for some years now, the general conclusion has been that more energy, creativity and expectancy have resulted, and nobody is asking for the committees to be reinstated.
So as I conclude, perhaps these learning points may provide some food for thought.
As we face the future together, I don’t offer any apology for reminding us again of our much repeated diocesan mission statement that we are, before God and relying on the power of his Holy Spirit, in the business of ‘Transforming Community Radiating Christ.’
I will, no doubt, keep repeating phrases such as, we seek growth, we serve in teams and we encourage leaders. And I will keep encouraging the clergy and their parishioners to Grow Deeper, Grow Closer, Grow Wider.
These emphases are biblical and are foundational and I am praying to the Lord of the harvest that I will be, and that all of us together will be, faithful labourers in his harvest. Our responsibility is to pray, to obey, and to dig channels where his love can flow.
Synod members, I thank you for your faith, your partnership in the gospel, your reliance on God’s grace and power as together we move forward into what he has prepared for our future in this small but precious part of his Kingdom.