yesterday i went to an awesome day conference, helpfully put on in the church that i'm attached to for the next two years whilst training at ridley.

it was called 'fresh expressions and the sacraments' and was organised by dave male (fresh expressions guru) and the speaker was maggi dawn, which was brilliant.

the day was broken up into four sections; what are sacraments for? what is communion? (the particular sacrament that was being discussed over the whole day) liturgy of communion - in which we wrote our own liturgy and celebration of the eucharist using that liturgy.

a great mix of verbal speaker stylie and audience participation, with plenty of chance and encouragement to ask questions.

i am particularly interested in this because i want to do a kind of mix and match parish/pioneer ministry training. ridley are open to this and seem to have the things in place to enable me to do it, although i think i'm a little bit of a guinea pig in this area. after going to this conference, however, i even more strongly think that this is something i want to do. i feel really strongly about the growing mutual exclusivity of the parish vs pioneer priest. this is something that is unnecessary and really unhealthy for all parts of the body.

so there were loads of questions and thoughts that i came away with, which i thought i might explore a little bit here over a few posts.

so, number 1. i made an observation about some of the reasons that people get into fresh expressions ministry. there is a strong pull away from the 'one man band' type model of ministry, away from the apparent exclusivity of clergy vs laity and from the general stuffiness associated with the idea or image of the parish priest. in some ways i wondered if this was part of the 'dna' of the pioneer priest. on talking with one guy he verbalised it as pioneer ministry being full of people who 'don't want to be a vicar, and so this is a way to do it' - by which i took to mean that a lot of the young guys who feel called to ministry, think of their image of the local vicar and thing 'i don't want to be that' and so head towards pioneer ministry as a kind of anti-position.

my own vision of ministry which encompasses both comes closer to what i see maggi doing. as she called it at the conference, it's about 'blowing the dust off the old' and 'digging deep to the treasures underneath'. there's something about traditional parish ministry which has a deep rootedness about a community formed in continuity with that tradition. we must look to draw on this deep rootedness for the good of fresh expressions of church.

there doesn't seem to be any doubt that a lot of young guys/people don't want to be the image of the parish priest that they might have in their head, but for me, i don't have that image. this expresses itself in two ways - first, i didn't grow up a christian. i became a christian at 14 and yes, the vicar at the time was a bit old and stuffy, but this was also the era of youth ministry, soul survivor and school's ministry. vicars could be cool. secondly, i'm a woman, no matter whether i have an image of the stuffy old parish priest or not - i ain't gonna be it. whether i want to be or not. by definition of my gender, i don't fit that image.

interestingly, this makes my position perhaps more flexible. i can fit into the parish thing, and draw on it, but not be tied to what 'people expect' in the same way that a man might. don't misunderstand me, i'm not that naiive, of course people will have their expectations of me, but my own need or vulnerability to those expectations is not linked to matching up to the man who went before me. i'm not drawn to the fresh expressions thing as an 'anti' position. i'm not concerned with being associated with the term 'parish priest'.

how much is fresh expressions a renewal movement of the parish system? and how much is it a completely new system? how does the 'dna' of the ministers who get involved with it influence the way that it goes, the tracks that it takes and the ones that are consigned to the sidings? i can see a 'two-track' communion happening within fresh expressions itself (very topical!), in which there will be those who see the value in the parish system and are willing to dig deep to uncover the treasures and seek continuity both historically and liturgically, and those who, still seeking those treasures, will seek to keep that continuity in ways separate to that system.

++rowan calls it a 'mixed economy' between parish system and fresh expressions, but it needs to understand that there is as much breadth of identity amongst the frex stuff as there is throughout our parishes.

and it's good to have a mixed economy, as long as the pound can be spent in the euro shop and vice versa.


Tim Goodbody said...

Hi Jody, really glad you've connected with Dave, who though he doesn't know it has inspired a lot of what we're trying to do here.
I think your reflections about parish priests across the trad/FEC divide are helpful (since I am one of those priests who spends his time being a traditional vicar while trying not to be one!)

One danger of pioneer ministry expressed as "I am called to ordination but don't want to be a vicar", is that this (particularly when said by women) may well be heard by DDO's and Bishops up and down the land as meaning "I am not incumbent material". This will soon become a criterion for selection, so we will need to ensure that everybody is speaking the same language when they talk of not wanting to be a vicar.

Rachel Marszalek said...

i'm a woman, no matter whether i have an image of the stuffy old parish priest or not - i ain't gonna be it. whether i want to be or not. by definition of my gender, i don't fit that image.

interestingly, this makes my position perhaps more flexible.

Great - some interesting truths in this.

Curate Karen said...

Great post, Jody. A distillation of thoughts I've had since starting my curacy. And you haven't even begun! You're ahead of the game (so-to-speak). I have experienced the tension between my own expectations of ordained ministry and the reality of being in a parish as a curate. But so true, what you've said, I will never be a clone of my male training incumbent. To some extent, every ordained minister pioneers their own ministry. And especially these days, it can be very different indeed.

jody said...

tim, that's a really interesting thing about pioneer ministry that i hadn't thought about!

i've heard that women do get pushed into SSM or part-time training or OLM sometimes, but that the radical heart of those who feel called to pioneering stuff be interpreted as 'not incumbent material' is an interesting lesson in 'lost in translation'!

in fact i'm beginning to make connections with that one already.....

karen, i definitely think that all minister's are 'pioneers' so to speak. the snobbery there is between parish priests and pioneers (from both sides) is just ridiculous, and probably there's a touch of vulnerability on both sides when that emerges. i think that whatever i 'think' in my head now, it will be something else when i get to do it in practice, so these musings are reflective observations and i very much appreciate a comment on practice.

any OPMs out there?

Richard Sudworth said...

i agree with you entirely Jody about the problem of the dichotomy of pioneer-parish. My hope is, and it is reflected in the training path i am on, that "mixed economy" applies at a local level rather than merely at a national level of the CofE.

jody said...

hi richard

yes, that's my hope too - did you start your course yet? i noticed that kate remarked that she'd survived her first weekend, but i don't know if you're doing the same stream as her?