No going back

The Rectory - December 2004

Revd Canon Andrew DeucharI guess it is OK to wish you all a Happy New Year, what with Advent being the beginning of the liturgical year and all that. And it is not a bad season to be making New Year's Resolutions in either, as we draw near to Christmas and the celebration of thze Word of God made human. The extraordinary claims that we make about the birth of Jesus are so earth shattering that we really should spend this period of nearly four weeks reflecting very carefully on how the Good News of Christmas makes a difference to our lives and our Christian journey. Sometimes - perhaps always - it seems that this completely transforming moment in the life of creation has been completely domesticated. And the key for so many people to a happy Christmas is that we feel good as a result. But of course! To kneel at the manger in homage to a newborn king who will turn the world and its values upside down should feel good. But actually that is not what most of us are expecting. Far from upheaval, we look for stability, the absolutely familiar. Well, we no longer follow the Prayer Book tradition of Advent reflection on Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell. Perhaps we should. Perhaps then we could recapture something of the awesomeness of the Christmas event.

But as we begin this year, of all years, in the life of our two parishes, I do have to ask you to join me in prayer and reflection on our future. We are now into a process of exploration together from which there is no going back. We are being asked to walk into the unknown, to dream dreams, to ask questions together about how we may be a more effective force for good in our city centre, together with other church communities, and indeed with people of other faiths and none. We do want to build on strengths that both churches have, so that each may find the best and most appropriate role especially given their very different geographical locations.

I know that stories are beginning to circulate, and as usual they are more rumour than fact. So let me outline for you what I think is happening and what is not happening.

  1. A small group met to talk about talks. It met twice, and may meet again. It looked at the widest range of issues possible, and mentioned unmentionable things!
  2. Then there was a meeting of the two Standing Committees that discussed how to handle the programmed joint meeting of PCCs. That meeting commissioned a paper to help focus the mind of the PCCs, which I wrote, and which offered two options to consider as a first step. There were no proposals in the paper. It was a discussion starter, and it looked at the two most radical options we thought could be on the table.
  3. The joint meeting of the PCCs took place just a few days ago, and a paper will be produced shortly that will summarise the reflections from that meeting. It will be made available to everyone. The meeting unanimously agreed that the two parishes were committed to seeing this process through together and to find the best solution for the future as quickly as possible. There were no proposals made at the meeting. Everyone was committed to ensuring the most open communication possible with members of our congregations, and undertook informally to enter into conversations with people as and when they could. So please make your views known – but listen too to what PCC members have to say.
  4. A meeting will take place on 8 December to which members of the two PCCs are again invited, at which the Bishop of Southwell, the Archdeacon of Nottingham, the Diocesan Chief Executive and Canon Janet Henderson (who has been chairing the working party looking at the future of the See of Sherwood) will be present to hear what progress we have made so far in reviewing our life. We will be making no proposals at that meeting. We will however indicate to Bishop George that we expect to make a series of recommendations to our respective parishes, and to him, by April next year. To that end, I am inviting the two PCCs to meet again for half day meetings in January, February and March.

What I can say is this:

  1. There is no question of both churches closing down.
  2. I would be extremely surprised and quite disappointed personally if it was suggested that either church should close down. I do not believe that is the way forward.
  3. I hope that what we shall want to explore together is a structure that will enhance the role of both churches in the city and will see our life develop and adapt to the needs of a modern successful city so that those outside the church will see a Christian community that is engaged, that will serve the people of our city, and that will proclaim clearly, generously and humbly the message of hope that is the heart of Christmas and Easter.

The PCCs in their meeting were absolutely clear that the driving force for any changes we propose must be mission. We are in a context where mission must be the primary purpose for our continuing presence. The challenge to us is to identify how we can use the resources we have most effectively for that mission.

I know that people are getting worried, and wondering what is going on. I can only say to you all this really is nothing to get worried about! We are committing ourselves to something which could, if we all pull together, be the beginning of an extraordinarily exciting new chapter in the life and history of our two ancient parishes.

Andrew Deuchar
© St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 2nd December 2004