Stuart Goddard asks why people might be threatened by a missional community.
Reconnect is a missional community in Poole and Paul Bradbury leads it as Pioneer Minister for Poole Town Centre and Hamworthy East. As the Rector of Hamworthy I am sometimes asked if I see this work as a 'threat' in some way.
The short answer is, 'No, I don't', but it is an important question.
The work that Paul is doing comes from a vision for a pioneer minister that was in place before I took up my post. It was put to me during my interview by the then Bishop of Sherborne as two questions: 'What do you think of this big idea?' and 'Would you feel threatened if someone was appointed to work independently on your patch?'
The original big idea boiled down to a suggestion for a bit of school chaplaincy, a bit of UPA mission in Hamworthy West and a bit connected with a pioneer role in the regeneration area. In the end, the big idea changed shape and became two posts. This could have got messy and vague.
One of the reasons why it went well is that senior staff – an area bishop and an archdeacon – and the deanery clergy through the deanery plan, were working on the vision very early on. They were therefore trying to appoint new clergy who would share and develop the vision with them. This integrated forward planning replaced any sense of threat with a feeling that I was part of a bigger team who were involved in innovative mission, both within the parish, especially in the Urban Priority Area, and in the regeneration area.
The commitment from everyone to make mission-focused appointments anchored the shifting nature of the multi-layered and protracted discussions.
Once in post I started to roll up to meetings that were exploring the idea of appointing a pioneer minister to work solely in the regeneration area. Canon Nigel LLoyd, our then area dean, chaired these. They also involved:
- the three clergy whose parishes the regeneration area wholly or partially overlapped;
- one other whose parish had the use of a house in the area, which was seen as a potential base or meeting place;
- Archdeacon Alistair McGowan, now Bishop of Ludlow, who happened to be steering the Bishop's Mission Order concept through General Synod;
- a businessman with Christian Vision who had project management skills and experience of being part of a successful church plant in a new estate.
These meetings established that an appointment was do-able with financial support but only secured for three years. Paul was appointed and the make up of the group changed – to include Paul (obviously) and a new area dean, Jean de Garis. Nigel LLoyd remained on board because of his longstanding experience of the project.
The team was highly democratic and representational, but a move to set up a charity to secure future funding caused us to realise that we were short of people with both the time and the business background to do this. The result was that the four local parish clergy dropped out and others (they happened to be clergy too) were recruited from the wider diocese. The new team shared the vision and filled out the much needed expertise in business management.
I didn't find it easy to walk away from the last meeting knowing we were no longer on board. I didn't feel it was threatening exactly – except to my strong belief that parish clergy needed to have voice to keep things grounded – but actually it was exactly the right thing to do. The philosophy was in place, Paul was in place. But for Paul to give time to developing the missional communities, we had to let the business know-how team get on with it.
The re-formed team set up Poole Missional Communities as a limited company that they then sought to have registered as a charity. This hasn't been as straightforward as was hoped.
As the new phase kicks in, I've been re-recruited to join the charity as a trustee. Having had a small share in the responsibility for appointing Paul and many opportunities to go on supporting him, it certainly feels good to be involved in the project more formally. It means the work can grow with an informed mutual respect for our different ways of building church as we interact with the varied communities in this part of Poole.