Summer 2019


WHAT is the Spirit saying to the Church? The question was constantly repeated at this year’s ‘Developing Ministry’ Colloquium. Less heard were the questions: And are we listening? And if so, what are we doing about it?
Facing up to facts is not yet spiritual discernment, but it’s a helpful staging post on the way. Among the challenging facts of today: church-going is seriously in decline; unbelief is rising; there is too much clergy breakdown and too few new vocations; rural parishes are inadequately serviced; and for all our talk about collaborative, lay- inclusive, ministry, our inherited structures inhibit it and clergy tend to resist it, to resist even sharing with each other. Our keynote speaker, Canon Dr David Hewlett, not only made sure we faced up to these facts; he also warned us not to expect to overcome them by fiddling with administrative detail. Ordained Local Ministry, for instance, would not get us out of trouble if we regarded it simply as a parochial gap-filler. Unless rooted in a new, more inclusive understanding of the Church’s ministry, it would fail in Ireland just as it largely had in England. Bishop Michael Burrows, who chaired the Colloquium, gave voice to his hope that out of the rich pooling of ideas and experience that day there would emerge ‘two or three hatchable eggs’ to enrich and even transform the life of the Church. But he also took to heart David Hewlett’s warning that a certain death had to precede any sort of resurrection, and that the Spirit might be telling us to let go old ways that now obstructed the future of the Church. The areas of vocational discernment, selection for ordination, appropriate ministerial training, and post-ordination deployment and spiritual support were all covered in the sessions following the keynote address. Some occasioned some lively, even adversarial comment. All are crucial to the Church’s future, and all require us to listen to the leading of the Spirit. Hopefully the eggs are now gestating in response to a willingness to let go ancient assumptions and become the Church for today and tomorrow. Readers are invited to share in the Colloquium thinking, and to share your thoughts with us.


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