On 11th July, Bishop Roger formally commissioned us as the Thurstable and Winstree with Kelvedon and Feering Mission and Ministry Unit. What on earth is that, you may be wondering, what is it for and why has it got such a ridiculously long name? Well, across the Church of England, a number of dioceses have recently been encouraging parishes to join together in groupings that are less formal than team ministries, but enable clergy and lay leaders to work together, resources to be shared and things to be done together that can’t be done by smaller churches on their own. This may sound like common sense, but, historically, clergy have often worked on their own, congregations have not always got on well with neighbouring churches and sometimes, the people in the next parish might just as well be on another planet.
In our diocese, parishes have been asked to group together in Mission and Ministry Units, or MMUs for short. It is not a great title (and is not to be confused with the Mothers’ Union) but it does describe what these groups are for: to do mission and ministry together in their local area. Each MMU has a leader, usually an ordained one, heading up a team of clergy and laity working more closely together, planning together and sharing resources.
We have known for some time that it is likely that Kelvedon and Feering will, at some point in the future, join our Team Ministry, so it seemed to make sense for us to form an MMU with them. This explains why we haven’t come up with a snappier name for ourselves, as we may well have to agree on a new name when they do join the Team Ministry, but we didn’t want to have to do that exercise just yet, especially as we are still getting used to our new name as the Thurstable and Winstree Team Ministry. Rumour has it that some in the deanery are calling us the Twinkle MMU.
So what difference does it all make to what we are actually doing?
Well, the short answer is not much. Revd Simon Garwood, the Priest-in-Charge of Kelvedon and Feering has been meeting with us as a member of our staff team for the last few months and we are increasingly trying not to do apart things that we could do together. So Kelvedon and Feering’s wedding couples joined our marriage preparation day this year. We have already run some joint quiet mornings and courses, such as the pastoral visiting course. And we will be joining together for a confirmation service in December. Kelvedon and Feering will be sending representatives from their PCCs to our Team Council meetings. We have already been given some grant funding towards Stuart’s work with TYPO and towards administrative costs. This has made it possible for Kelvedon and Feering to appoint an administrator for the first time, as well as contributing to the cost of our parish office.
You probably won’t notice much difference, but it has to be a good thing for Christians to be getting better at working together and supporting one another. For clergy, it is a very valuable thing to be part of a staff team and have colleagues to work with. And for congregations too, it can be enriching to see how other people do things and learn from their good ideas. We are one of the first MMUs to be formed in our diocese so we are pioneers in the new pattern of churches working together to see what a difference we can make to the communities we serve. At the end of the day, this is all about our mission – our reaching out to people in our villages with the good news of God’s love for them – and our ministry – our caring for those who live in our parishes, both those who come to church and those who look to us at times of need. I am looking forward to getting to know people in Kelvedon and Feering better and to exploring together how we can serve Christ and be a transforming presence in our communities.