THE PLAN. A United Deanery to be worked in Parish Clusters
Each Deanery in the Diocese of Lincoln has to have a plan that has been agreed by the local Church in consultation with the Parochial Church Councils (PCC's) of the Churches in the Deanery, the Mission Area Planning Group (MAPG) and agreed by the Deanery Synod; also by the Diocese through the East Lindsey Mission Forum, Lindsey Local Pastoral Committee and agreed by our Area Bishop. Until it is agreed a new plan cannot replace the existing one.
The plan is to enable the Deanery to flourish by using the resources that we have in the most effective way to promote the mission and ministry of God's Church. Having in mind the challenges we face in a changing environment for the Church of England as part of Christ's mission.
N.B. A plan has to be worked towards - it cannot be imposed on people still in post.
Over the period covered by the New Era developments Bolingbroke Deanery has seen and employed an organic understanding of our Mission in this part of our Diocese. The dominant model has been that of a collection of five Rural Parish Groupings. Each group is different in both feel and practice but as the South Ormsby Group celebrates 60 years there is a realisation that a shared history has been engendered and just to change this structure without careful strategy and method would lose something of great worth.
Seven years ago each of the five groups, Stickney, Mardon Hill, South Ormsby, Partney and Spilsby had its own incumbent. It was obvious that the Mission Area Account would not sustain five full time posts and simply because one post became vacant it was decided that all the stops would be pulled out to maintain the remaining four full time priests/incumbents. A high value was placed on this form of ministry and the necessary resources were found to balance the budget at this level. (Almost - but it is now putting a heavy strain on parishes as we have to find the highest amount of share per head of population in the diocese, and several PCC's are not sure if this year's share can be met.)
The resulting pattern of ministry was achieved as much from what was possible, from where we were, as from having any unified vision of what our mission needed to be. We had people in post who felt very strongly that they had been called to a specific ministry and it was decided to work with what we could do together rather than not working together at all.
To that end we were greatly helped by the sacrificial ministry of Joan Thornett who as a Reader then Deacon and now NSM Priest took on the role of Community Chaplain to the Stickney Group (the one without an incumbent) and in most senses has fulfilled the duty of an incumbent, with oversight given formally from the RD and then from Adrian Sullivan as Priest in Charge as well as incumbent of MH Group. (So we have seen in microcosm how part of our draft model can work). This enabled the five groups to continue but it did not address the real inequality in the distribution of the mission resources that we had available to us. To all intensive purposes the two smallest groups (in terms of population) are being served by two full time clergy and the three largest are also being served by two full time priests.
This inequality was partly addressed by initiating two loose forms of federation; on the west side South Ormsby, Mardon Hill and Stickney sharing some of their ministries and planning (complicated by the long term illness of one team member) at a ministerial level. On the east side an arrangement whereby part of the pastoral care in two parishes of the Spilsby Group (the largest population by far, 45% of the deanery) was taken on by the Rector of Partney.
It was realised that this was a transitional period and that the future mission of the area would to a large extent depend on the growth of local and collaborative styles of ministry. Initially there was great enthusiasm for the Parish Foundation Course, a significant number (30+) completed the course but that did not translate into many moving on to complete other modules and then to move on to authorisation as Local Ministers. (But there will be four authorised in the very near future.) No new readers have been identified for training, although we have lost two we have gained two others (one of whom has been accepted to train as an OLM and the other may well try to be so again).
The MAPG has been aware that there are real weaknesses in our present way of working and has continued to explore different models which would meet the perceived need to build on the great strengths we have in the deanery but at the same time be able to have the flexibility to respond to respond to demands of differing styles of mission and ministry. We are only too well aware that just to keep on doing what we are doing will not tend to produce anything new and that by simply creating new/bigger configuration of parishes that we will in all probability be hastening decline and more difficulties, (log jams & recruitment difficulties) in the future.
Considering the various directions we could take it was not obvious which one would be right for Bolingbroke and we did not think that any of the schemes that were being developed by our sister Deaneries in East Lindsey was quite right for us. Through a contact in the Gloucester Diocese we were introduced to a concept that many of us feel is appropriate to explore further and that is the stage we have now reached. We hope that through consultation across the deanery and outside, by our February Synod we can put forward an initial plan for the future.
The basic concept is to create a United Benefice to cover the whole Deanery. This would be served by a Collegiate Mission Team (CMT). On which there would be a named "parson" for each given/identified areas of the Deanery/Benefice. What those areas will be in the future will depend on the imperatives identified by the "MAPG" who will have responsibility for the overall strategy but initially they will need to start from where we are now. A main component is that each area (geographical and/or generic) is of a size and homogeneity that will enable them to flourish.
It would seem reasonable because of pressures on Mission Area Funding and the Recruitment Difficulties to our kind of area to look now at full time equitant posts in the region of 2.5, plus administrative support. This could equate to two full time posts plus two "house for duty" type posts. The latter could be made up in any number of ways (e.g. we now have the reality of an early retirement minister living in a clergy house from Christmas but who will not be an official House for Duty post) shared posts with others, ecumenically/other deaneries/diocese, active retired, will need to be explored. But the mission team would also include other forms of lay and NS ordained ministers who would also have an area responsibility type of role in the CMT. The full time posts would as well as having parish parson responsibility for their own areas would, one have the co-ordinator role of Team Rector and the other the training and mission team development role.
It is important to have the strength in the "groups" and it is a tenet of this model not to proliferate the layers of governance; so no benefice council but the existing structures of MAPG/Chapter and Synod would need to be used to the full.
Whole Deanery a United Benefice
Working as a Team Ministry
2 Full Time Clergy
2 "House for Duty Priests"
1 NSM & others to be identified for area responsibility
All working as "Parish Parsons" to a "Group"
Spilsby, Mardon Hill, Stickney, Partney & South Ormsby Groups initally.
Oversight of the Benefice will be shared by the MAPG.
Each full time priest will have a deanery wide role as Team Rector/R D & Training Officer.
It is intended other ministers will head groups for other specialisms.
Administrator; employed half time
The Deanery to work on a Collegiate Ministry Concept; all members having equal status with Team Rector as chair.
Readers, Local Ministers & Retired Clergy will co-operate in mission and Ministry across the deanery as discerned.
Mission and Ministry Training will have a high priority.