|Cumbria Area Special Category Ministry Post
CONTEXT: Geographical area – this ministry is exercised across the county of Cumbria. Until 2004, Cumbria was split between the Northern Synod and the North Western Synod. The boundaries were changed in 2004 to create a new Area of Cumbria, in order to have a more coherent strategy for scattered rural churches, and to match the boundaries of ecumenical partners more closely, particularly the Methodist Cumbria District and the Anglican Diocese of Carlisle.
The aim of this Special Category Ministry has been to help scattered rural churches work with each other and with the Synod. The projects undertaken in the first term of this ministry were helping people to overcome feelings of isolation, whether that was due to geography and transport or due to lack of strong friendships between churches and the inclination to work together. As a result, some signs of real change have been seen in the way people relate to each other between United Reformed Churches and across denominations. New relationships are gaining in strength and importance.
CENTRAL CONVICTION: It is clear that through this post much has been done to enable people in scattered communities to begin to form stronger relationships and to work together across denominations. However, significant changes cannot be achieved quickly and a further term is needed to enable the sharing of all kinds of resources.
The appointment of a new Anglican Bishop, the Right Revd. James Newcome, has seen the development of more flexible patterns of working between churches. The situation in Cumbria is changing: discussions are ongoing about new ecumenical structures involving the URC, Methodist and Anglican churches, with the possibility of other denominations becoming involved in due course. This could be a model for other parts of the country.
Over the last two years, several significant incidents have taken place in Cumbria, such as the disastrous floods of November 2009, which have highlighted the importance of churches being able to give effective ministry to the communities of which they are a part.
It is envisaged that as ecumenical links grow stronger, major decisions about church property and congregations will need to be made. Skilled leadership is needed to help people accept and adapt to change. If change is handled positively, some resources from church building will be released for mission.
The overall aim of this post is:
RELATIONSHIP WITH THE URC: The post-holder should be a key person in enabling United Reformed Churches in Cumbria to work more closely together.
As Area President of Cumbria, the post-holder is expected to convene the Area Pastoral Committee and to gather ministers together for fellowship and support.
The post-holder’s work must be exercised within the structures of the Synod.
It is essential that this ministry should be exercised by an ordained minister, who will represent the United Reformed Church alongside leaders of the Methodist Church and the Church of England in Cumbria.
This ministry is exercised across a wide geographical area, and is addressing complicated structural issues. It could not be achieved on a part time basis.
Future development of the post:
1. Continuing to set a pattern of identifiable URC leadership in the county alongside the Anglican, Methodist and other churches.
2. Continued development of local mission partnerships, including partnerships with other local denominations. A release from local independency which has largely grown up with geographical isolation from other URCs.
3. Strengthening the ecumenical links, not only with the Anglican and Methodist churches, but also with those churches in membership of Churches Together in Cumbria; using the ecumenical agencies as positive tools in the mission of local churches and mission partnerships.
4. Managing change, identifying and encouraging leaders, arranging appropriate training.
5. Bearing in mind from the beginning an exit strategy to ensure a strong future for the new mission strategies.
It is envisaged as a fixed term post.
FINANCE: This post is financed by the North Western Synod of the United Reformed Church.
A Manse is provided for this post in Kendal – although this is not central to the Area it does provide good access across the area and to the rest of the Synod. In Ecumenical terms it also means the three main church leaders are distributed around the county – the Bishop of Carlisle lives in Keswick and the Methodist District Chair in Penrith, in addition the President of Churches Together in Cumbria (a Baptist) lives in the Furness area.
Support for this post meets the requirements of the Plan for Partnership.
MANAGEMENT AND SUPPORT: An established Management Group has overall responsibility for oversight of this ministry with the convenor of this group being most closely involved.
The present post-holder has indicated that she receives support from the other two Church Leaders – Methodist and Anglican.
She has made her own arrangements to meet with colleagues outside the Synod to discuss ministry issues.
The present post-holder meets Richard Church, Synod Moderator, on a regular basis both to review her ministry and for mutual support.
A mini-review of the post will take place after 18 months.
EXIT STRATEGY: In the last 18 months of the fixed term, the post-holder, in conjunction with others in the Area, should develop an exit strategy, such that the work can continue after the end of the SCM post