Last updated 7th September 2022
Throughout June, many of our clergy and Licensed Lay Ministers (LLMs) met together at one of a series of six study mornings.
The study mornings were organised by Bishop Jill and the Being Witnesses team.
The overall focus was on mission. During the morning participants explored responses to the pandemic and how, as a diocese, we Unlock following an enormously challenging year to 18 months. Read more about 'Unlock' below and here on the Diocesan website.
A recording of one of the events, if you weren't able to attend or want to watch it again, is available on our Diocesan YouTube channel and is embedded below...
The morning began with opportunity for participants to reconnect.
‘It was all so relevant to the times we are in. It felt hope-filled,’ said one person. ‘It was so good to catch up and meet friends and colleagues (old and new),’ said another. ‘Extremely inspiring. God is on the move. Great to see colleagues from different churches," was another comment.
Bishop Philip opened the morning by encouraging the participants to stare deeply into Acts 16:25-32.
Like a magic eye picture reveals hidden images to those who look intently into it, so by studying the story of Paul and Silas in jail, deep treasures were excavated.
Recognition of our need to lament, give thanks and express joy was given. In the past 16 months, clergy and congregations have shown incredible compassion, resilience, and ingenuity, the Bishop said.
Under the headings of The Jailor, The Jailed and The Joy, listeners learnt how Paul and Silas evangelised their way out of jail.
As a result, the jailor and his whole household found faith. Lessons were unpacked for our situation today. Who is your jailor? How do we create communities of joy?
One participant commented: "Fabulous Bible study which provided an important springboard in thinking through the unlock process."
Meanwhile Bishop Jill spoke of the treasures she was finding in Blackburn Diocese.
In these challenging times, there seems to be an acceleration in the gospel she said; people are hungry for relationships. To meet this need, our Being Witnesses Vision is to plant 200 new local congregations. The aim is to reach new groups of people in different ways.
The focus was on who was missing and could we reach them by meeting in a different place, time or style? The Bishop illustrated the Vision with examples such as After-School Church; Choir Church; Wild Wonder; Forest Church; Messy Church; Pop-Up Church; Lyrics and Lunch and many other examples.
The Revd Prof Jeremy Duff talked through his experiences of growing New Local Congregations in Widnes.
To light the fires for these new local congregations Bishop Jill is leading a four-week #BeaconCourse – in summer and autumn.
This course aims to inspire and give participants chance to reflect on who they wish to reach. It is an asset-based approach drawing upon the riches of our traditions. More details are available from: email@example.com
Bishop Jill stressed that we want to keep clergy in parishes; on the frontline and do all we can to support and enable them.
In 2012 our strategy had been to cut clergy she said; under Vision 2026 we set a new trajectory of hope and growth.
“With Jesus the time is always now," she said. "Now is such a time of opportunity for the gospel in our nation. It is not the moment to drift into 'declinism' .... to quote a heresy coined by Bishop Philip." Please see Bishop Jill’s lecture on declinism here.
Carolyn Barton, Diocesan Director of Vision (pictured) updated participants on the next phase of Vision 2026.
She detailed the process of evaluation that had been undertaken across the whole diocese; highlighted the various strands of the Vision and the focus areas for each.
In order to enable parishes she informed those attending of the new healthy church evaluation tool and the Vision 2026 COVID Recovery Framework whilst also taking the opportunity to remind clergy about the Parish Vision Fund and the support of Vision Companions and Vision Champions.
Further information about Vision 2026, including details of the recent refresh of the Vision which brings inspiring children, young people and schools to the forefront, can be found here on the Diocesan website.
Bishop Julian ended the Clergy Study Days with a Eucharist which included homilies from AD Mark and AD David that refreshed people’s souls.
Feedback from those who attended was overwhelmingly positive. Clergy and LLMs left the meetings feeling reaffirmed, inspired, encouraged and energised.
The final word comes from one of the participants who said:
"I always find, when we come together in this way (parish priests, archdeacons, bishops) that I leave feeling inspired and re-energised for mission and ministry. I just think this is so important. Please keep doing these events."
And remember the recording of the Blackpool Study Day can be found on YouTube here.
Ronnie Semley, April 2021