Collecting things

Mother Ruth wrote movingly recently on the collection of decrepit hoovers that her congregation has amassed over the years. It is a subject dear to my heart.

It occurred to me this morning during the coldest Diocesan Council meeting in all of Christendom, that we collect other things like this too.

Take mission plans, for example.

  • The Purpose of Your Church
  • The ANDREW vision (in St Andrew’s diocese)
  • Mission 21
  • Journey of the Baptised

I’ve been in the church long enough now to have seen them come and seen them go. What was the one that came before The Purpose of Your Church? I cannot now remember, but I bet someone can. There was just a hint this morning at the Council of what we might do next in this diocese. It sounds quite good to me and it is interesting as it appears to suggest that there is life after Journey of the Baptised after all. However, we do collect them.

We have a similar collection of ways of thinking about ministry too.

  • Ministerial Review – discussed fully about six years ago at General Synod, I think and not yet implemented.
  • Continual Ministerial Development – now with its associated Individual Development Plans – just like living in perpetual TISEC. (Did the Pope not abolish Limbo a couple of weeks ago?)
  • Collaborative Ministry aka Local Collaborative Ministry, Whole Body Ministry, the People of God Movement, Full Body Ministry, The Ministry of All the Baptised, Total Ministry and any number of other acronyms and names.

The cold icy tendrils of Collaborative Ministry were starting to creep through the Diocesan Council this morning. The trouble with Collaborative Ministry is that it is a package which some of us in the church believe in as though it were a religion and some of us just don’t get. The presumption of the former is that the others are power crazed megalomaniacs. (The presumption of the latter is that the others are power crazed megalomaniacs too).

Notwithstanding the state of the wider Anglican Communion, the real point of schism in the Scottish Episcopal Church is over Collaborative Ministry, or whatever it is called this week. It is clear to me that several of our current bishops don’t agree with it at all and are starting to be a little bit more assertive about that fact. (It isn’t hard to see why they should be anxious – the dioceses which were early, enthusiastic adopters of all of this are now in dire straights).

The confusing thing to the bystander is probably that there is a difference between collaborative ministry and Collaborative Ministry. Working collaboratively seems to me clearly to be a good thing. However the presumptions of the Collaborative Ministry agenda go far beyond that and they are far from having been agreed by the whole church.

Perhaps a little reflective debate within the SEC Blogsphere would be interesting.



  1. vicky says

    Oh yikes, Kelvin……I think I just stepped into the twilight zone. However, just to rattle the bars of your educational experiences cage, can I just say that TISEC is nothing like Limbo. It’s initial point of reference is vocational (ie lifelong development) rather than a vacant, eternal, unbaptised state. I think purgatory might be a better metaphor?
    The trouble with lifelong initiatives is the participants will keep having crises and conflicts in them (Honestly, you’d think they’d know better)…which is a real nuisance if you’re attempting to design a pedagogical strategy that can cover phases of life, variable educational expectations, different intellectual stand points, and spirituality. ‘TISEC tries to do an impossible job, herding ordinand cats into a fragmented ecclesiastical basket’ Discuss.
    There you are…get your teeth into that 🙂
    ps I think working collaboratively is a great idea as long as it doesn’t actually mean getting rid of the preisthood

  2. Elizabeth says

    Yes, definitely in the twilight zone.

    Would anyone care to define ‘Collaborative Ministry’ (I think I can figure out collaborative ministry) for the uninitiated?

  3. kelvin says

    Vicky – thanks for your comment. The question of whether TISEC is more like Purgatory than Limbo entertains me greatly.

    Elizabeth – there is quite a good description of Total Ministry/Collaborative Ministry by someone who believes in it wholeheartedly here:

    Other people may be able to point to other descriptions, I don’t know whether there are any that are available from a Scottish context.

  4. kelvin says

    It is also worth looking through “Journey of the Baptised” on the diocesan website. “New Century, New Directions” is also on there – this was the report that I remember voting in favour of, because it was going to stop TISEC from delivering education programmes.

    Both here:

  5. Out in the sticks some form of collaboration is necessary if we are not to be in even more dire straits (sic) than we are at present. Every time I participate in a clergyless service (on average once a month) I am aware of the yawning gulf between (say) what I can contribute by way of a sermon and what a properly educated professional can do. However, I am aware that in some ways this state of affairs has been beneficial for our congregation in terms of education (of the few) and pulling together (of the rest) – so it’s not all black.

    And as for continuing development: it’s the norm in teaching and in business these days – why should you guys escape? 😉

  6. Well, Fr K, you certainly got my attention! A subject dear to my heart – and I don’t just mean the hoovers. I have taken the discussion over to my Blog to keep give it a wider audience.

  7. kelvin says

    Could I ask, Chris, whether the people facilitating your continuing educational development were volunteer parents from the school?

  8. kelvin says

    oh, and another thing, whilst we are at it, I don’t think you should assume, Chris, that anyone every taught us to preach. In TISEC, the idea that people should be educated in how to preach was a definite no no. Odd really, as preaching is a skill that is relatively easy to teach someone how to do better.

  9. vicky says

    Kelvin, me thinks you are a CPD cynic. Have you considered reflecting on this in terms of (1) how you see your relationship with God; (2) what the implications for your vocation are; and (3) the theological stand point of cynisim within a monotheistic liberal tradition? If you haven’t, do so immediately, in triplicate and get it signed off by your bishop. If you have, what formal development programmes do you think you might need to help you explore the cynism and make it a positive aspect of your ministry. And, where can you get a grant from for that?

  10. kelvin says

    It may be that I am a CPD cynic. However, it appears that I am not the only one.

  11. This string is so tempting…. and just as I’m about to go on holiday too.

    I suspect part of the TISEC dilemma is that they thought they were delivering purgatory and we experienced it as limbo.

    I don’t think it is possible to have a sensible converstation about Collaborative Ministry until we can at least be clear on what it means.

    The congregation that I know that best embodied collaborative ministry had at least 4-5 priests and a lot of very dynamic lay people mixed into the team at any one time. That ensures that people are offering their actual gifts, rather than trying to fit a perceived stero-type of what is required in the absence of a rector (be it occasionally for for weeks on end).

    As for Chris’ comment about education for the few — loaves and fishes, I hope…

    Vicki, the problem isn’t that Kelvin is a CPD cynic, but a CPD grand master. That is what he does. But not in ways easily set down on paper (unless he decides to be a novelist after all).

  12. Hmm. Speaking as a mere mortal pew-warmer, reading that FAQ Kelvin referenced waves a red warning flag by the time I get to FAQ#3 in the first section: “Who will visit me in the hospital? A minister of the church.” Isn’t it rather lacking personal connection?

    But by the time I get to FAQ#5 in the second section with lay ministry and roles for wardens etc, I’m thinking “so what exactly is different?”.


  13. kelvin says

    Tim – no one is a mere mortal in the land of Collaborative Ministry. Everyone is a Minister.

    (In the time before Collaborative Ministry, we were all trying to be better disciples and some had recognised ministries).

  14. By the time I read all the comments above I’d all but forgotten the question … but no, Kelvin, they weren’t volunteer parents; they were colleagues, or line managers – but that didn’t mean I wanted them telling me what to do. In my own line of work I was/am as arrogant/cynical as the next man/woman and considered myself perfectly developed already, thank you very much.
    Kimberly – I preached on loaves and fishes once …. 😛

  15. One fo the very best things about posting on this blog is what happens to your smileys after you hit “submit”!

  16. Well, whole denominations rise and fall on variations of the idea of `no-one is a mere mortal’; I started in one that took no-hierarchy to extreme (and merely has its own set of problems to deal with). And now I’m quite happy with “better disciples, some with recognized ministries”. Certainly makes thinking about the nature, rationale and implementation of hierarchy and structure interesting. But maybe there comes a point where it should be left to a decision at local level?

    (I could also say that the prefix `total’ makes me think of “Total Quality Management” and all the Dilbertian responses that brings, but that would be cynical of me! …oops.)

  17. kelvin says

    Chris – I dare say that even being offered facilitation in CPD by colleagues or line managers, I would still be able to dredge up more than my fair share of arrogance and cynicism. (And Kimberly is quite right, it is not that I’m opposed to developing continually at all).

    Can you imagine what I can dredge up when I’m told that my facilitator will be a volunteer from a congregation?

    There is in fact a peer appraisal system for SEC clergy, but it is secret and you don’t get offered it. It is secret like the Masons (you have to go looking and find them out for yourself) not secret like Cursillo (they find you, again and again and again).

    Tim, I’m happy with the “better disciples, some with recognized ministries” way of doing things, but that won’t do for some people these days.

  18. ‘In-service’ days – that’s what we need. Teachers get them and we do teaching, right? And you’re quite right, Kelvin, we didn’t get taught how to preach because Tisec was/is not a skills-based course. All that teaching was to be done in our curacies by so-called training clergy. And what training did they get to teach? Em, none. Because they either don’t turn up (thinking they are above that sort of thing) or because they are crap teachers and only ever wanted an extra pair of hands. Just because you can afford a curate doesn’t necessarily mean you ought to get one.

    I found out the secrets of the Clergy Appraisal Scheme (and Cursillo too which I am happy to share with anyone cos its NOT a secret!!!) and I meet with my appraiser once a year. My son works in Insurance and he is appraised every few months. And he doesn’t cure souls. It’s all about accountability and we don’t appear to have got that quite right yet.

    And instead of IDPs, I think we should just have some training in self-awareness. That’s the key to it all. Know thyself.

  19. vicky says

    Ruth – I think you are hitting the nail on the head – vocational development is ok conceptually, but really quite awful if the folks acting as the developers haven’t ever sat down and reflected explicitly on what and how they do things….nothing worse than tacit habits that allow for smooth working once you know them by osmosis, but can’t be clarified and examined explicitly in times of change? Also, most folk who have to teach/ are called to teach have perceptions of how they are recieved in learning situations based on assumptions that are never evaluated, so personal myths are given a body without ever checking to see how accurate the original perceptions were (I see this amongst academics all the time.) So self awareness informed by real discussion with congregations and supporting evaluaters (spiritual guides from within and outwith the congregations) seems an interesting possibility to me. The philosophy under the ideals of personal development is based on western notions of self-efficacy and agency being explicitly enabled through reflective discussion – the cynic in me is more concerned about the normalizing function of such a thing, but I think the hopes for what can be achieved are of real iportance for vocational training.

    Kelvin – arrogance is such an interesting notion for professionals, isn’t it? As far as I can see, we all need to feel reasonably comfortable in competence, disposition, knowledge base and attitudes before we can take the full responsibilities that come with trying to lead folk. So confidence is useful. I think over confidence can mean that we let our prejudices and stereotypes get in the way of readiness to learn from others though (speaking as I am, as someone from a discipline background where intellectual borders of barbed wire are erected to keep inter-disicplinarity and learning from others out in all sorts of subtle ways!).
    Also, do you think it is possible that we can learn the most about ourselves from the people we feel the least up to helping us develop?
    ps I really enjoyed the sermon this morning Kelvin. 🙂
    pps. I really do waffle when given a vehicle for my voice, don’t I……….

  20. kelvin says

    I think that we often learn a lot from people who are not like we are. I don’t think that really conflicts from the fact that we can learn a great deal from people who know a lot about what we are trying to learn.

    However, it is very hard to learn anything when you feel put out.

    I agree with Ruth that in-service training would be good. I don’t care a bean what the subject of the training should be. It would just be good to get together with people doing a similar job from time to time to talk about it. There are a relatively small number of skills that almost all clergy need which almost all clergy could improve on.

  21. I would say that clergy ought to be given a choice – to undertake to work out a program of continuing education for themselves (in conjunction with a Diocesan or Provincial advisor) or else be asked to partake of the type of post-ordination/mid-ministry which most Dioceses come up with which consists of a lot of time spent sitting around a flip chart. I think that given the choice we’d have a lot more clergy reading interesting books, honing their skills and following their bliss than we do now.

    It was, I think, two Provincial Synod’s ago that some body from a Diocese other than E’burgh stood up and asked whether schemes of local collaborative ministry weren’t, in fact, a way of life (or article of faith) but a perfectly acceptable stop-gap until we could muster up some ‘proper priests’. I thought he was going to get lynched. I’m not sure whether he was being delightfully naive or deliberately thick. What was clear is that there were a group of people very upset by his comments and another group nodding their heads in agreement. I agree with our host that were we ever to discuss the issues openly we would have a fairly loud debate on the subject.

  22. Elizabeth says

    I’m probably not qualified to comment on most of the above, not having much experience or understanding of such mysteries as TISEC, CPD (or PPD or PR as it’s variously called in my place of employment, although I probably shouldn’t admit to not having it) and whatnot. In search of enlightenment I diligently followed up Kelvin’s useful links. . . .

    I must confess I got stalled at the title – Total Ministry.

    Perhaps it’s a paranoid generation X reaction, but that just sounds sinister to me. I’m sure that’s not what it was meant to convey – but all I could think of was ‘duck and cover’.

  23. kelvin says

    Raspberry Rabbit – just to say that I cannot remember ever being invited to sit around a flip chart or to undertake any post ordination training with colleagues in the diocese that I was ordained into at all. I know that Edinburgh has post-ordination training because Mother Ruth, who runs it, invited me to do a seminar on the organizational structure of the church. (It was entitled “How to get the church to do what you want” in order to get people to turn up).

    In the past, there was a provincial CMD programme which used to put on occassional study days for clergy and people in other authorised ministries. I remember going on study days on the gospel of the year just before advent and also quite a good one with Brian Hardy on the Eucharist. I enjoyed those kinds of things. You got to meet people from around the Province and learn something too.

  24. In the Diocese of Montreal we had a modest deduction taken from our stipends for continuing education. Can’t remember exactly what it was called. It was matched by a tripled amount from the Diocese and put into a ‘Continuing Education Fund’. One could make application to this fund for courses, sabbatical study, etc. If the idea was good and went beyond the money which had been saved up then some grants were available either from the National Church or even discretional dollars from the Bishop. A few bright souls found a way to wangle a computer or books out of the fund but the intention was to pay for courses that would further the practise of pastoral ministry and the theological depth of the clergyperson. I think it’s a shame that some of us can have the date of our ordination divined by the publication dates of the books in our libraries.

  25. The vex questions of ministry and training afflict the Church of England too. I have been in my current Diocese for six years and supposed to have a annual review with one the Senior staff each year – so far I have escaped lightly with a pleasent review with my Rural Dean who seemed happy with the process – though it was all about the Deanery and little to do with my ministry. A smile and a signature on a summary document which everyone will ignore is all that is really needed.

    One year I had a letter from both the Bishop and the Archdeacon saying it was their turn – I referred it back for them to decide which is was and they both decided it was the other so life continued pretty much as normal.

    Collabarative ministry is essential – not because there are fewer clergy (though there are) but because no one clergy-person can aquire the range of skills needed for leadership in the complex and changing world we minister in. Despite my absence of review I have developed a Ministry Development Team, seen three Reader vocations and two ordained vocations emerge in the Parish, and am now off in two weeks on a three month sabbatical confident that all will well in the parish and a good portfolio of visiting priests. The secret if collaberation to be local defined according to needs and then Episcopally ratified – in too many Diocese it is Episcopally defined and locally and reluctantly ratified.


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