Teamwork in Rural Deaneries
For many clergy in rural areas, one of the biggest challenges is finding themselves working on their own. A Rural Ministries grant is enabling all of the clergy in the Abbeydore Deanery to work together in their new roles as rural pioneer priests, alongside a newly appointed co-ordinator and, as they have found, to achieve so much more in the process.
Rural Dean Revd Nicholas Lowton explains: “Firstly, we are embarking on a new way of doing things. Being able to meet together gives us all a chance to share non-judgementally with each other the challenges – personal and professional – which we face. Secondly – and more positively – engaging as we are in developing new ways of doing mission, we have the opportunity to exchange ideas and develop proposals together.
Thirdly, having been enabled to appoint a deanery mission coordinator, we have the means to not only put our ideas into practice but also to drop some of the normal administrative tasks we have all found a hindrance in the past. I think it would be fair to say that letting go has not been as easy as we thought it would be!”
Abbeydore Deanery covers a rural area which stretches from the outskirts of Hereford across the Welsh border and into one parish beyond, up to the edge of Hay-on-Wye, where Revd Luci Morriss is based. She says: “Before ordination, I worked as part of a team, so rural ministry since has often felt lonely. The role of rural pioneer priest appealed to me, as it involves working as part of a close deanery team. We meet weekly (including lunch) and these regular gatherings are bringing many benefits: they allow us to focus on shared goals, offer encouragement and practical support to one another, give us opportunities to learn together and – very importantly – to both laugh and moan! It’s good to work together to help God’s Kingdom grow in this deanery.”
Revd Mark Godson explains, “In his deceptively simple book, ‘Being Disciples’, Rowan Williams asks a great question: where do you most often sense the company of Jesus? My answer is twofold: I most often sense the company of Jesus in silence and in the company of others. In silence, I am found by God in moments of attention, mystery and delight. With others, I find who I truly am through partnership and participation; through the wonderful messiness of a shared quest; through the unfolding path we walk as we explore being with the church and being with the world. Team, being-with-others, is for me all about discernment and endeavour in our shared mission of listening to those amongst whom God has set us and discovering how to engage with them in belonging to God through place, through activity, through events and through people.”
Crucially though, as Revd Hilary Morgan observes, “The deanery project is beginning to make a difference. As a rural priest working in relative isolation the changes have meant that I am supported by a team of like-minded clergy to reach out in mission. I am no longer doing my own thing on my patch. I am no longer blinkered by the needs of the local church but have a far broader horizon. The joy of the project for me has been the coming together of a number of wonderful people in the deanery, people working in partnership with a common purpose – to broaden the concept of church.”
Revd Simon Lockett, the longest serving priest in the deanery concludes, “What has been most helpful in terms of working on a specific project with the team has been the encouragement and permission given to go beyond the usual bounds of parish ministry. It has been truly inspiring!”
This article was first published in VIBE May - August 2019