Update on proposals for the future
All Saints', St Mary's and St Peter's
15th January 2006

Most members of the congregations will be aware that at joint PCC meetings held last year, it was agreed – almost unanimously – that we should explore the unification of our two parishes. Members have taken part in Group discussions on Mission, Worship, Structures and Communications over the past 12 months from which proposals have begun to emerge. The Churchwardens of all three churches (minus Mark Simons, who was abroad) met with me on Saturday 7 January to review progress towards making proposals for the future relationship between our two parishes, and to map out a process for the next four months designed to see some key decisions made by Easter, as promised at our Annual Parish Meetings in 2005.

In due course, there will be a draft paper for everyone to see that sets out some basic information on these proposals in greater detail which will form the basis of a discussion in both PCCs at their March meetings. There will then be the chance to refine these proposals before taking them to another joint meeting of PCCs on Saturday 1 April. We propose that this joint meeting will discuss the proposals together, and then discuss and vote on them separately. This vote will be taken as the decisive vote of both PCCs, and the resulting document will be submitted to the Annual Parish Meetings that will be held in both parishes towards the end of April. If nothing else, I hope that will ensure a good attendance at those meetings! Meanwhile, I append below an outline of these emerging proposals.

Editor's note: at the joint PCC meeting on 1st April 2006 the vote in favour of these proposals was almost unanimous.

The need for change

I am aware, however, that there are probably a number of people in both parishes who are still uncertain about why there is any urgency in this proposed programme of development. So I would like just to outline, clearly and succinctly, why we believe that change must happen, and the opportunities that this moment presents to us:

  1. There is no sense in working apart in as compact an area as the city centre, particularly when, generally, church attendance is falling.
  2. We need to be much more visibly mission (or outreach) focussed. We cannot afford to sit and wait in the hope that new people will suddenly appear at our doors just because we believe what we offer is good. And we need carefully to reflect on the aims and objectives of our outreach – which is what the Mission Conference at the Council House on Thursday is aiming to do.
  3. Mission/outreach is the task of the Church, and the Church is all of us, collectively and as individuals. That engagement can be at a number of different levels, but all can be involved in some way.
  4. Different churches – both buildings and congregations – have different strengths and potential. We need to explore areas where we can complement one another, not compete.
  5. We need to understand and respond to the needs of the city, not simply plough ahead with our own agenda; and we need to be seen and heard, so far as possible, to be speaking together.
  6. The Central Deanery is committed to developing collaborative working among all the parishes of the Deanery, and working towards a single multi-skilled ministry team.
  7. The continuing lack of clergy nationally is forcing the diocese into a new strategy for deployment of clergy, which will lead to a significantly lower number being available in this deanery over a period of the next five years.

These are all significant challenges for us to consider and the proposals we hope the PCCs will address and in due course accept, are all designed to help us to take advantage of the opportunity now being presented and to build a renewed ministry in the city centre, working as closely as we possibly can not only with each other, but also with other churches, including our ecumenical partners.

Outline of proposals

The key proposal that the separate PCCs will be asked to consider is that, following the Annual Parish Meetings in both parishes in April, we should initiate the process to unite the two parishes. This process would take some time to complete as it requires a submission to go through the Diocese, to the Church Commissioners and then to the Privy Council. From experience it should be completed, if there are no formal objections, within twelve months.

Having made that fundamental decision, there are a number of other areas of development that we recommend should be explored further, and in very practical ways:

  1. From the initiation of the process a new governing body should be formed to direct [oversee?] the life of both parishes. It will be discussed with the Diocese and with legal advisers whether this body can have the legal powers of a PCC at this stage. Membership needs to be decided, but we need to look at possible representation from other churches in the city centre. Elected PCCs would continue to deal with issues relating specifically to the life of the individual congregations, buildings and activities, within an overall strategy set by the new governing body.
  2. As soon as the process is initiated the Rector of St Peter's and All Saints' should relinquish his freehold and become Priest in Charge of the new unit. This is a cosmetic change only in terms of responsibilities and role, but would be a significant change historically. But it is important not to imply any difference in the status of each church. There is new legislation passing through General Synod at the moment about Terms and Conditions which will see the phasing out of freehold anyway.
  3. The existing staff team of three full-time stipendiary clergy, plus the Commercial Chaplain, would be recognised and active across the two parishes, with the Commercial Chaplain particularly building a stronger identity for the Chaplaincy at St Peter's. There would be no expectation of recruiting a further ordained post as incumbent of St Mary's.
  4. It would be explicitly recognised that all three church buildings will continue as places of worship, but there will be initiatives to develop particular 'niches' for each building to maximise the potential of each in appropriate ways. These developments will be promoted in consultation with St Nicholas', our ecumenical partners, and other churches in the urban conurbation. The Joint Mission Group would continue to lead thinking on this.
  5. The work of the Joint Worship Group would continue as we seek to develop a pattern of worship across the new unit that is flexible, accessible and so far as possible provides choice for people. There is no desire on anyone's part to change or remove existing styles of worship, but rather to add to them to provide diverse liturgy of the highest possible standard within our central Eucharistic Anglican tradition.
  6. Building on the past year's experience, we would wish (in the light of the foregoing, and valuing the strong musical traditions in both St Peter's and St Mary's that we think should continue) to request the Directors of Music, in consultation with clergy and PCCs, to continue to develop collaboration and joint planning within their areas of responsibility, to encourage diversity, to offer appropriate joint events and to utilise our buildings to the best possible effect for our musical contribution to the city.
  7. We would need to explore a viable title for the new unit/structure which avoids terminology that is exclusive to Anglicanism, that is instantly recognisable and that would enable the enlargement of the unit, if and when that becomes possible, without having to change the name. One option would be 'The Nottingham Minster Group', with, for the moment, a subtitle of '[the Churches] of All Saints, St Mary the Virgin and St Peter, Nottingham'. (The concept of a minster is still under discussion, but it is essentially about the style of ministry offered – the gathering of a group of ministers in one place to care for a wide area. Our instinct is to avoid the identification of the minster with any one building. The Dean of Southwell has indicated that this would offer the opportunity for Southwell Minster to put greater emphasis on its Cathedral status, to avoid confusion.)
  8. From the outset, we would seek to involve others (and have sought to do so, not very successfully in the discussions so far) from potential partners, whom we see to be primarily our cluster partners of St Peter's Radford, All Souls' Radford and St Stephen's Hyson Green; our neighbours at St Nicholas'; and those ecumenical neighbours who choose to be involved – so far, St Barnabas RC Cathedral and St Andrew's with Castlegate URC have been interested.

Andrew Deuchar

© St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 17th April 2006