Reaching hearts (Tim Carter)

Tim CarterTim Carter wonders how we reach hearts.

The people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light

Luke 16.8

It seems to me that Jesus' observation is nowhere more applicable than in the field of understanding what motivates people, what really matters to them, what will make them change their behaviour. The stakes for marketing agencies are high – get this stuff wrong and they lose the account. They are experts on the human heart and maybe we can learn from them.

As I have begun to reflect on the culture of the area that we are working in and to explore what might be a fruitful way forward for ministering here, two long-running ad campaigns have bubbled to the top of my mind.

With images of each household having a planet to itself and a strapline of 'Looking after your world', the British Gas adverts paint a picture of the place that we have moved into. This commuter dormitory in the suburbs of Telford is, as the chair of the Community Association described it, 'a collection of houses, not a community.'

The second set of ads to spring to mind are those of Lloyds TSB: 'For the journey.' This seems to identify a way of thinking about life that resonates strongly with much contemporary missiology – if less obviously with the culture I'm seeing here.

Marketing agencies are experts on the human heart and maybe we can learn from them

At first I struggled with the discrepancies between these two stories. It seems to me that there is tension here between two deep desires that have been identified in contemporary English culture by these ad agencies. One desire is for self-sufficient, private, independent existence. The other desire is for someone to accompany us, to secure our destination.

As I thought about it a bit more, I came to the conclusion that I don't have to reconcile these stories. Rather, it might be that a spark of creativity can be generated in the gap between the poles of the paradox held in high tension.

As we seek to love God with all that we are, and to love those around us with the self-giving, vulnerable, truly present love of Christ, so we believe that people's understanding of their world will be reshaped by the Holy Spirit and they will know that Christ walks with them.

Anglicanism must die? (Tim Carter)

Tim CarterTim Carter asks whether Anglicanism must die.

Recently I was leading a training session for a group of curates on discerning God's call in a fresh expression context. As part of the session I emphasised the importance of the principle of dying to self and asserted that those called to engage in fresh expressions ministry must be willing to die to their own preferences. We are not called to create a church for ourselves, but to enable the people to whom we have been sent to become church. The question came back at me, 'How does that square with it being an Anglican fresh expression? Are you willing to die to being Anglican?'

I've been reflecting on that question ever since. I do believe that the Anglican tradition lends itself well to finding local expression. It has a heritage of self reformation and it is a broad church that has worked hard to maintain unity in diversity. Having said that, I think that this question is worth engaging with. What of its own core identity is the Church of England willing to allow to die in order that the Church might live?

It seems to me that this question might be expressed in different ways at different levels. At each level there are elements of what might be considered Anglican identity that might have to die.

What must die in the national institution?

Common liturgy and forms of worship? Ordering of bishops, priests, and deacons? Geographical coverage of the country?

What must die in the local church?

Is it necessary for inherited churches to die if new churches are to live? Is support for fresh expressions an optional extra from surplus resources, or a core ministry that will be prioritised?

What must die at the personal level for ministers?

Do ministers have to allow ministries that we find personally fulfilling to die? Is it right to kill off branches of church life in the face of the pain of those who live amongst those branches?

I pose these questions without knowing the answers, but to provoke conversation. As we engage with them and others like them, I invite you to join with me in prayer.

I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I find it easy to suggest things that need to die when others will face bereavement or the work of consolation. May God forgive me and give me the grace to die well and the courage to console others in their grief. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Amen.


Licensed as Pioneer Minister in Priorslee, Telford, Tim Carter outlines the launch of this Bishop's Mission Order in the Diocese of Lichfield.

Priorslee - village greenThere has been a lot of development around Telford in recent years. To the northeast of the town an area of around 1,800 houses have been built over the last 20 years. There is still land earmarked for development within this area with space for another approx. 500 houses. Within the area there are two primary schools, two small rows of shops, two doctor's surgeries and two pubs. The area shares a name with the original village of Priorslee, but there seems to be little feeling of it being continuous with it in any real sense.

The result is an affluent commuter area with many of the residents working in Wolverhampton and Birmingham because most of these houses are within a few minutes drive of the M54 junction.

This area has been identified as a mission priority over the last 5-10 years and various things tried along the way but then a strategic decision was taken to recruit someone to come and live on the estate and plant a church.

This BMO, the first in the diocese, is slightly unusual in that it doesn't cross any parish boundaries but the legislation is seen here as releasing the Pioneer Minister from expectations of involvement in inherited parochial ministry.

Priorslee - housesThe aim of the BMO is for a church to grow in this area, with the shape of that church (gathered or network or something else to be discerned) but the achievement of that aim feels like quite a long way away. The BMO mechanism allowed the diocese to create some space in order to explore that.

I am employed by the Diocesan Board of Finance, which provides administrative support and a governance framework in these early days of the ministry. My licence allows me to operate freely within a geographical area defined by the BMO and by invitation anywhere in the Diocese. The BMO is time limited with a review period and the licence is linked to the BMO so is valid as long as the BMO is in place.

Priorslee - roundaboutI am linked to what are known as two 'supporting' churches in the wider area – All Saints, Wellington and St Andrew's, Shifnal. We are still exploring exactly what that means though currently they are providing a place for my family to worship and be part of and be sustained by whilst, and until, the plant is able to sustain us. They are also providing some prayer support. This strategy has been implemented with the aim of guarding against the sense of isolation experienced by so many pioneers.

Priorslee - schoolI was licensed on September 6 and diocesan officers worked hard to get us into the house, purchased by the diocese on the estate, in time for my children to get into the local school for the start of term. We still need to work out how we get involved in this community and the school, for instance, is very open to us.

We're at very early stages and at the moment it's all about talking to people and having neighbours around for endless cups of tea!