MCCN The Hayes Conference 2005

Strategy for the Network

The Revds Phil Mason + an unphotographable Peter Willis Phil Mason is superintendent minister in the Bolton Mision circuit and the unphotographed Peter Willis is superintendent in the Nottingham Central Mission circuit

Paragraphs in black are what I believe were contributions from delegates – KT

Phil reported on a half-day meeting (towards the end of last year) with the General Secretary, David Deeks, at which he and Peter had presented a draft leaflet on the review process for churches on the city centre list. The leaflet took Our Calling and the Priorities for the Methodist Church as its starting point and we are awaiting David's response. It is important that it should be endorsed and owned by the Connexion.

The rural churches had produced a handbook called Presence which was launched at the 2004 Methodist Conference that is intended to shape the way the church will work over the next 10 years and outlines how an effective Christian presence can be sustained and promoted in rural areas. Already this handbook has been put to use in outside rural areas in urban and city centre contexts and Phil asked whether our network should produce something similar. This was agreed.

It was pointed out that there had been little consultation prior to the production of Presence.

The general view was that we (in producing our handbook) should consult and ensure that districts supported it.

If we wanted funding to support the product then we must get a bid in soon so that it is part of the budget for the next three years.

We must be careful not to clash with the new Faith in the City report from the Church of England which was expected in two years.

What we produced should be sharper and more focused.

There is a Connexional policy on procedures for producing publications – those involved in Presence did not follow the policy.

We might consider bidding for funding which would support one day per week for two years.

Peter reminded us that there were no longer 'priority appointments' and that there was no way back to this earlier situation. Although stationing may well 'pull someone out' to fill particular appointments city centre circuits would not be special cases. Where the 'city centre minister' was not a superintendent this would mean that the appointment would only be filled during the second round of matching at the earliest.

It is important to find the right practitioner for city centre work. At the moment there is no induction or training for such work. In the 'emerging churches' an internship-apprenticeship approach is often used and Peter advocated something similar for city centre work.

At Nottingham they were planning to appoint 'interns' on a housing-plus-expenses basis. He pointed out that there are cases of people paying for the privilege of working for the church. We need to tap into such possibilities.

The apprenticeship phase which follows the internship provides not only an opportunity to learn by doing, but is a time when basic discipleship can be developed through courses with local colleges and (in the case of the emerging churches) learning through material provided on the Internet by scholars from all over the world. At the end of the apprenticeship apprentices prove their achievement by passing on what they have learned to a group who are following them in the same scheme.

In the case of city centre Methodism the process might eventually lead to ordination.

Must district approval be obtained for this kind of scheme?

Peter quoted the general Secretary: 'Go for it!'

Methodism must be flexible in order to be supportive rather than try to control. Our present models of ministerial training are more flexible but do not allow for what is proposed but through consultation this could be developed.

Is this niche stationing?

The old pattern of the new minister starting in a rural circuit and the progressing to suburban, inner city and city centre no longer obtains. Should we recognise a call to city centre ministry?

We should be prepared to go where we are set but have a sense of where our emphasis is. We should be equipping ministers for particular work whether it be rural or city centre.

At Nottingham the presence of one young person has brought re-vitalisation – what if we had more?

Will the circuits support an apprenticeship scheme?

Districts should as it is the district that has put a church on the city centre list, and districts will soon have more money at their disposal. We must be ready to bid for it. This is an opportunity not a problem.

There was general agreement that we should 'go for it'.

Peter presented the proposal that the Methodist City Centre Network should have a half-time 'development officer' funded by contributions from the city centre list. He envisaged that the person appointed would be someone already involved in the Network and who would be bought out from their current circuit for three or maybe five years when they would return to their circuit and someone fresh would be appointed.

Peter gave an indication of the costs involved and suggested that those on the city centre list be invited to buy a number of £100 shares (each year) in the project. It was suggested that we explore the possibility of Connexional funds but recognised that we may have to fund it ourselves but that this had the advantage that we (the Network) would have control.

It was agreed that we should endeavour to get someone in post by September 2006.

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4 March 2005