From The Rt Revd Trevor Willmott, Bishop of Basingstoke
18 December 2007
I welcome this opportunity to write to you on a subject which has been much in my thoughts and prayers over the past months and that is the future Pastoral Provision for yours and your neighbouring Benefices.
For some time now the parishes of Over Wallop and Nether Wallop have been without a parish priest, amplified by the sick leave which illness forced upon the Rev Peter Matthews. The fact that the size of the parishes does not warrant a full time priest has made it difficult. At the same time, the parishes of Amport, Grateley, Monxton and Quarley have been exploring their future and recognise that if the Rev Chris Pettet leaves, they also would not be able to expect a full time member of staff in replacement.
North of these villages is the urban parish of West Andover. Over the last five years it has seen a population increase of up to 33%, added to this are continuing building, industrial estates, six schools, the possible Tesco's development, and soon developments with the armed forces.
DE&S, formerly DLO, is moving operations to Bristol. In its place the headquarters of the Army (HQ Land Forces) and, almost certainly, the Adjutant General's department will be moving in. It is unclear how this will affect the resident population, but it will inevitably bring large changes to the working population and community life. There may also be expansion at Middle Wallop.
Framework for Growth
For some time now the diocese has been concerned about simply joining parishes together to make larger benefices -the obvious solution might be to join the village parishes together with one parish priest. However, the Church wants to develop ways of responding to change that are creative opportunities for growth, rather than strategies for decline. While being honest about the pressures the Church is under, we want to re-group rather than retreat.
With growth in mind, I would like to propose that the parishes of Amport, Grateley, Monxton and Quarley, of Nether Wallop and Over Wallop, and of West Andover consider the possibility of working together as a Team Ministry.
Team ministry is not about percentages of clergy time. Each church maintains their own identity with their own parish priest; but in a team everyone is able to draw on a much broader reservoir of gifting and expertise, and the clergy are able to minister in their strengths rather than trying to be "Jack of all trades". So a team vicar may also be rural & urban industrial chaplain across the team, equally, when the churches decide to do "Giving in Grace" all they need is one team of ten rather than three teams of six.
While it wouldn't be possible to countenance full time members of staff in these rural benefices; the diocese does want to invest staff in a team ministry that will respond creatively to the opportunities and pressures of this rural and urban context, and work imaginatively with the armed forces, in West Andover, Middle Wallop and Amport, creating possibilities for growth.
If such a Team is to flourish then it will need substantial stipendiary ministry as well as, thankfully, a continuing non-stipendiary Lay and Ordained ministry. To my mind that stipendiary resource should be a Team Rector and two Team Vicars each of whom will be based in one of the current Benefices where he or she will offer primary pastoral care and be responsible for the worshipping life of each of the communities within that Benefice.
How Would It Happen?
There are already two members of staff in place, the Rev Chris Rankine and the Rev Chris Pettet. If the PCCs agreed that we should develop this Team Ministry, then work would go forward immediately to appoint a Priest-In-Charge of Nether Wallop and Over Wallop, who would in due course become a Team Vicar of the new Team Parish; part of the appointment process would be to work out what expertise we already have and seek to appoint someone to take on different roles on behalf of the Team.
With the appointment of a Team Vicar designate, there is nothing to stop the churches beginning immediately to explore what it means to be a Team, and to develop good working practices- these things do not require law or licenses. The legal framework will be developed over the following twelve months and would become part of its ongoing development rather than the starting pistol!
While I have been able to discuss this proposal with the Churchwardens and some of the PCCs of the Benefices concerned I recognise that there is much work still to be done not least in trying to identify the issues which will need to be worked on if a Team Ministry is to flourish for the benefit of all the Parishes concerned.
I am planning to meet with all of the Churchwardens, Readers and Stipendiary and Non-Stipendiary Clergy towards the end of January so that together we can discern if there is sufficient in principle agreement to take this matter forward. There will doubtless be many questions which will arise in your minds so please donít hesitate to talk with those around you. Please also pray for all of us as together we seek Godís will for the future of His Church in your part of our Diocesan family.
Be assured that you will all continue to be much in my prayers.
With my blessing
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