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Being on a journey of change

Published: 7th February 2022

Archdeacon Nikki GroarkeIn this article for March edition of parish magazines, Nikki Groarke, Archdeacon and Diocesan Lead for Transformation and Change talks about the change journey and support for parishes as they become healthier and more sustainable.

The Archbishop of York recently described the journey of change as more like a meandering river than a Roman road.  It felt to me a helpful image and reminded me of trying to find a picture to publicise our next round of Open Conversations.  We wanted something twisty and slightly uphill, eventually going out to photograph a suitable road as we couldn’t find one which was just right. 

Change is never straightforward. It involves twists and turns, and sometimes a few dead ends and re-routing moments; but it is important to keep moving forward if we want to grow as Kingdom People in healthier and more sustainable churches. Pilgrimage is part of who we are.

What does a healthy church look like to you I wonder? We asked this question at a meeting with churches from the Redditch area recently and got a rich variety of answers. They suggested phrases such as outward looking, engaging and welcoming, lively and vibrant, Bible based, reaching out to the community, trusting, pastorally aware, diverse, reaching all ages, varied worship…and many more.  Whilst all congregations are called to worship God, make disciples, share hope and transform their communities, how that looks in different settings, contexts and traditions will vary hugely.  What’s important is that people in each parish seek to discern what the vocation of their church is, and journey together to fulfil that calling.

Twisting road image for open conversationsThere are two key ways we are supporting churches in this journey this year. In March there will be a third round of Open Conversations, where churches will share stories of how they are growing as Kingdom People and trying new things to help their parish thrive and become healthier. These will be great opportunities to join together in facilitated discussions where ideas can be shared locally, and we can hear from each other about what other resources might be useful.  As before, these will be places to listen and learn, wrestle with challenges and prayerfully explore solutions to shared issues we face. Do book into the one in your deanery, or one of the catch-up sessions in early April.

We are also offering Mission Accompaniers to come alongside parishes, helping you to ask the right questions about what a healthy and sustainable church looks like where you are, and what are the next steps you can take to bring this about.  Having a fresh perspective from a skilled coach or mentor walking alongside can be really illuminating for those who don’t know the way forward.  Think of those two disciples walking to Emmaus when they felt that all hope was lost.  As they were accompanied on their journey by one who listened and interpreted events for them, revelation came, and with it new hope and resurrection joy.

A verse from a great hymn reminds us that “We are pilgrims on a journey, and companions on the road; we are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.” The hymn speaks of grace, and the light of Christ shining on our path.

We are on a journey of transformation and change, as the church of God has always been. If we travel together, open to wisdom from those who come alongside to guide and accompany us, we will move forward steadily, pressing on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14).  But we will do so at the right pace, moulding our surroundings as a river gradually changing course, rather than as a Roman army cutting through all barriers to make a direct and straight path, and sensitive both to the Spirit’s leading, and to the needs of the world God came to transform with new life.

Page last updated: Monday 7th February 2022 11:50 AM

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