Do you remember Wales’ feat of Euro 2016? Do you recall the Manic Street Preachers song and Wales’ national football team’s slogan for the tournament, “Together Stronger – we’ll win if we unite!”? Wales didn’t win the complete competition of course, but they did make their best achievement for an international football competition yet, reaching the semi-finals, losing to the eventual winners Portugal.
At the beginning of July (July last month, not July 2016!), the clergy, wardens, local licensed ministers (LLMs – formerly, ‘readers’) and worship leaders from across the newly proposed ‘Hope-Quarter’ grouping of churches got together with Mission Area Leader, Martin Batchelor, to explore further the idea that Hope and Penyffordd Churches now work more closely with the Penymynydd, Cymau and Llanfynydd churches in terms of shared mission and ministry and our common life together. You may recall (Rector Writes, June 2019), that the Mission Area Conference (MAC) has proposed that our mission area look at building shared ministry around the four geographical quarters or groupings around Buckley, Hope, Hawarden and Connah’s Quay. The proposal is being made due to the current clergy vacancies in Broughton and Sealand, and the vacancies that will arise in Penymynydd and Ewloe churches, when Rev Bryn Parry Jones retires in October.
With the proposal I believe comes much opportunity for healthy growth in our churches. Our meeting last month, was very productive and very encouraging, and although concern was raised that the proposed model for our area may only work as long as we have Gareth our new curate with us (!) everyone present (and there were about 20 of us), including clergy, was supportive of the overall proposal – all of us in fact graded the proposal at a 4 or 5 out of 5 in terms of how positive and workable we consider it to be.
We are fortunate in this Hope-Quarter in that many ways we already are ‘uniting and working together to win’. We gather together on a fifth Sunday. St John’s Music Group support Emmanuel with the monthly All Age Service. All Saints, Cymau was a daughter church of Hope Church until the 1960s. Depending on how far we look back – pre-1843 Llanfynydd was part of the old Hope Parish too. It is certainly not uncommon to have folk from our neighbour churches with us at our special services and social events.
In our meeting, a number of us, shared “one-word” on what we think or how we feel about the current proposals for the Hope and the surrounding churches.
Concern was made that such a proposal will be “demanding” – in particular it will be demanding on the clergy and lay ministers as we take on increased responsibilities. It was admitted however that such a proposal looks “necessary” in order for our churches to continue serve well our local communities.
Positively speaking, those present considered the proposals as “refreshing, interesting, necessary, helpful, optimistic, sensible and exciting”. The proposals also look like they can provide us with, “stability, opportunity, a way forward and confidence” and also a, “menu”.
By “menu”, we mean that when we look at (say) the current pattern of Sunday worship on offer across our five churches, there is a very good range to choose from. Holy Communion is on offer every week, as are non-communion services of the word. There is a monthly All Age service in most churches (or weekly at Hope.4.All) and twice a month (in Ffrith and Penymynydd) there is now a ‘Café-Church’.
Our task now is to plan for the future, by planning for the ‘nearly now’. At this stage, in terms of clergy allocation in the Hope grouping, this looks like, Gill Stanning will continue as the primary priest for Cymau and Llanfynydd, I will continue at Hope and Penyffordd, and from October, I will become the named priest for Penymynydd. We also, remember have very able LLMs in Pam and Ann. Barry our stalwart continues plodding on, we have a super team of worship leaders and pastoral assistants and of course now have Curate Gareth with us, and Jeremy assisting with Hope.4.All.
The next stage is that the MAC has asked for the clergy and wardens to get together to look at how we might grow and develop our worship, ministry and mission, “united, together, stronger”.
Please keep the Mission Area in your prayers at we plan for the future. Thank you.
In Christ, Adam
Rev Adam Pawley