Pilgrimpace's Blog


Support, Collegiality, Vocation, Passion; Being Shaped By Jesus
March 13, 2016, 8:20 pm
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Talk by Andy Delmege at the Evangelism on Urban Estates Conference, 1.3.16

I am Vicar of St Bede’s Church, Brandwood in South Birmingham.  I am going to talk about two of the other things I do, although these are very much rooted in the experience of outer estates parish ministry.

  1. The Birmingham Outer Estates Group

This is a good and easy model for others to replicate.  I convene this group which has been running since 2010.  I saw a need for the group and got the blessing of the Bishop.  It fills a deep need for support and collegiality.  When I asked fellow estate clergy if they wanted to join, they often said yes before I had finished the question.  We have in the region of 35 estate parishes in Church of England Birmingham, and around 25 parishes have engaged with the group (there is obviously no compulsion to join).

We aim to have two or three good quality events a year, the most important of which is a 24 hour residential for clergy.  We were originally funded by Thrive Together Birmingham (the CUF/Diocesan partnership) but now have a small annual amount from the Diocesan Mission Budget.

 How does the Outer Estates Group Help Evangelism?

  • We have put a lot of work into setting a good culture. We know estates ministry is often tough; that it is important to share difficulties and open up spaces of trust and support; but it is vital for estate ministry that we do not become trapped in negativity.  Depressed and downhearted clergy and churches will find it much harder to engage in fruitful evangelism.
  • Sharing good practice and imagination.
  • Feeding the original vocational vision – most of us are in estates ministry because we want to be.
  • Identifying needs and offering training. For example, culturally appropriate lay training and formation; and changing ethnicities in outer urban estates.
  • People feel very supported. It is like a good Chapter, but we are comparing like with like.
  • There is deep respect across the group – things like churchmanship are not an issue.

Maybe this is all around creating the conditions for evangelism at a structural level.  Parishes and clergy who are supported, fulfilled, in good heart, staying for longer, skilled at and committed to estates ministry are more likely to create attractive, loving, hospitable, serving and evangelistic churches.

A lot of the learning from two of our residentials is available online:

http://www.slgpress.co.uk/SLGP_Details.asp?ProductID=E_MIN001

https://pilgrimpace.wordpress.com/2016/02/08/hopeful-resilient-love/

  1. Jesus Shaped People

Jesus Shaped People is a whole Church development programme that is written especially for estate parishes.  I am involved in supporting it across estates and inner city parishes in Birmingham.  It works really well.

(You can read about it in detail on the website:

http://www.jesusshapedpeople.net/)

JSP takes Jesus’ teaching to his disciples and distils it into 15 weeks, allowing the whole of a Church (with a special emphasis on children and young people) to capture Jesus’ vision and method, and to apply it to their own life and work.

It fits estates. The learning style is not conceptual.  It is practical, rooted in the Kingdom, serving the local community, doesn’t require reading skills, is about group and stories.

There is something important in this for estates evangelism: in estate context, evangelism cannot be separated from discipleship, service to the local community, contextual learning, praying, prophetic challenge.

It gives parishes a real and renewed sense of purpose, vision and life.  This link:

https://pilgrimpace.wordpress.com/2016/02/28/jesus-shaped-people-catching-some-insights/

gives a list of comments collected during an evaluation of how JSP has effected St Thomas’, Garretts Green in Birmingham and in what they are being led into next as a result of JSP.  You can really see here how a parish is moving consciously from serving the community to evangelism (but seeing them as intimately connected).

‘Organic’ is a very important word here.  We often see slow organic growth in JSP parishes.  Things take a long time.  It is often about culture change; at St Bede’s it has led us to a more welcoming, hospitable, loving and confident culture; this has led to people from the congregation engaging in evangelism with their neighbours and to new people joining us.  JSP spreads organically – it is by word of mouth and personal recommendation rather than top down.

The JSP Team offer ongoing missional support to parishes.  Someone from outside is in a relationship of trust where they are able to help the parish discern where they are being led next and ensuring that they are equipped to do it.

 

 

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