Stories and Case studies

Steve Kinnersly reflects on his recent experience organising a Diamond Jubilee street party:

For the Diamond Jubilee earlier this year, a number of us in xxxxxxx got together to organise a street party. The main aim was to create a legacy (yeah, that word again) where people regarded themselves as part of a street community and would do all the mutually supporting things that communities do.

Perhaps not surprisingly, a significant number of the main organising team (including the two who started the ball rolling) were Christians - perhaps indicating a concern that our 'ministry' to neighbours was almost non-existent because none of us knew more than a few people in the street.

Bits and pieces of 'street community' are gradually emerging. But if I were asked how my belonging to a church is helping me in this attempt to be able to minister to my neighbours, I would have to answer "It's neither helping not hindering - it's totally irrelevant". And that is not just very sad, it's a disgrace.

A parable told by Oliver Home, Bishop’s Chief of Staff in Bristol Diocese:

Imagine a daughter who has been routinely ignored by her parents, occasionally ridiculed by them and certainly thought she could never achieve anything in life. Then one day out of the blue, her parents sit down with her and tell her that they want her to step up and start managing part of the family business. How do you think that’s going to work out?

The daughter is going to be under-confident, inexperienced and probably not going to know what she’s doing; but she is also going to want to test the boundaries and see if her parents are for real. She is likely to make some poor decisions and express some generally adolescent behaviour.

The parents on the other hand are likely to actually forget she’s meant to be running that division, frequently ignore her, and occasionally overrule her. They are sometimes going to regret the decision because of the messes they end up feeling they need to clear up. They are going to struggle actually to let go.

In short, it’s going to be messy. A dysfunctional parent-child relationship must navigate and endure a parent-adolescent phase and aim to end up with an adult-adult relationship. That’s never been a straightforward process.

For Debate:

In the Church, who are the ignored children?

At the 2012 National Deaneries Conference, Oliver applied his story to deaneries. A possible inference is that deaneries should have increased responsibility as tools of management in the diocese. This in itself is an issue worth debating!

However, how does this story resonate with the experience of lay members of congregations in the Church of England?

Ignored and under-valued children can sometimes sort themselves out despite bad parenting. But in these cases, rather than trying to run their parents’ business, they will probably seek out what they regard as ‘better things to do’.

Deaneries have been known to do competent and even creative work without reference to the diocese, but have been sat on – usually because they are not doing it the same way as the diocese might wish.

Ignored lay people who find the wherewithal outside the congregation to enable them to mature as Christians will find themselves doing all sorts of things that the congregation and its leaders know nothing about and may not fully understand when they are told.