This morning I went to a biannual meeting of the pastoral committee for Plymouth Archdeaconry. It doesn’t sound the most exciting of mornings, but I have found serving on this body a useful way of gathering information and hopefully making a positive contribution to decisions about the future of ministry in the city.
One statistic I learnt today was particularly interesting. Each year the Diocese of Exeter has to set a budget, to cover the cost of clergy, housing and central services (bishops and cathedrals are financed separately). You may be surprised to learn that in 2008 the budget was £12.9 million – of which about 75% has to be raised by the 28,000 or so churchgoers in the diocese.
In 2014 the budget remains at £12.9 million. Real savings have had to be made, both in terms of clergy numbers and central services, and with many congregations getting older, the financial pressure on the diocese is only going to get greater.
So the days of one vicar with one parish are largely behind us. So are the days of the vicar being expected to do everything. In our churches we are so fortunate to have a team of dedicated people who work so hard to keep the church going. But if we are to thrive in the future we really do need to work towards everyone being involved. I’ll say more about this at our APCM and vision morning on 26 Apr, but I am starting to clarify in my own mind how we might do this.
In the meanwhile we will need more ministers and readers who are self-supporting to lead and manage local churches. Where are they going to come from? The simple answer is, by praying for the Lord of the harvest to send out workers and by considering whether you yourself could be the answer to your prayers. And if you think, no way could it be you, just look at the twelve apostles – and what Jesus was able to do with them! If you in any way sense you have a vocation to preach or to lead worship, do have a word with me – and together we can hopefully discern how Jesus is calling you.