Rector's Letter - Progress in working together

The Rectory - September 2005

Revd Canon Andrew DeucharSeptember always feels like the beginning of the year – which of course it is for educational establishments; but coming after the long(ish) summer break for us all, we sort of start again as September opens, and we begin to look forward to the autumn, to Advent and to Christmas. (As it happens, as you read this, Fran and I will be in the middle of our holiday in Italy, so we will just have to put off that starting again for a little while longer!)

As it happens, we are also more or less midway through the year since our Annual Meetings, and the affirmation (albeit with reservations) of both parishes that we should continue to work towards a much closer relationship for the future, with the likely end being some sort of structural unity, but a flexible unity that in addition allows for other parishes in the deanery and our ecumenical sisters and brothers to enter into the relationship as far as they feel able.

This is breaking new ground, and is looking to create both much stronger relationships between churches and a much higher profile and more focussed ministry and mission for all the churches in the city centre. To get to where we need to be takes time. If it is rushed, we will get it wrong, and it will alienate a lot of people. But it is a process that everyone must understand is initiated by 'us' not by 'them'; and it is for our benefit and the benefit of the life of the church in Nottingham and our attempts to live and proclaim the Gospel effectively.

The first half of this year of exploration has seen a number of practical initiatives to begin the process of getting to one another and to work together wherever possible. One or two of these seem not to have met with universal appreciation – like the joint notice sheet for instance. I keep picking up bits of gossip (usually third or fourth hand) that suggest that various aspects of it are not appreciated. If that is the case please talk to me about it. Don't complain to one another. And please don't criticise the office staff. They were asked to produce it. It was explicitly introduced as an experiment, with the invitation for comment. And we received one or two helpful comments early on that were incorporated.

The same goes for anything else that happens in this process. We are now setting up joint working groups to look at Mission, Worship, Communications, Finance, Management Structures and one specifically to look at the future of All Saints, to work through the autumn. They will I hope be representative of the parishes, and one or two of them will have representatives from other churches on them. We will try to report regularly both to PCC and to members of the congregations. They have open agendas, to look at every aspect of our lives and to try to work out how we might develop together to ensure that we are not duplicating and that the congregations and buildings are engaged in the activities most appropriate for them. Please engage positively with them. Listen to what is being said and reflect on it. Offer your own views. But remember, it is not about 'What I want', but about what is going to increase our effectiveness as part of the Body of Christ.

We aim to have this part of the process complete by Christmas, and then to give three months to our PCCs to come up with some concrete proposals for the future. I hope that at Eastertide (by which time the new Bishop of Sherwood should be in post in Nottingham, a very significant additional strand within the whole plan), we shall be able to have a city-wide celebration that will mark our commitment to the way forward.

At this stage, I simply want to remind everyone in both parishes that this is not just a paper exercise, nor is it about one parish exercising influence and control over another. Nor is it about the city centre seeking to control and direct what church life in the city overall is about. What it is about is offering the most effective witness to the Gospel of Christ that we can. Competition between churches has no place in our life. There is plenty of work for us all to do. We do not need to see one another as rivals. St Paul has pretty severe things to say about that sort of behaviour. We are called to be partners, brothers and sisters in the Gospel, to build up one another not to destroy. The journey we are on may still seem uncertain, the destination unclear. But we are moving. We have to move, because if we don't we will disappear from view in the life of our city. The changes we are grappling with will open new avenues, create new friendships, and encourage new resourcefulness and hope in our lives – and for some already are. Please let us unite to make this a really positive leap forward for us all.

Andrew Deuchar

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Last revised 22nd September 2005