We spoke to Team Rector, Rev Bill Stalker, about the new united Benefice of Lowton and Golborne.
It's OK to have a vision but if you don't bring people along with you ...
The benefices of Golborne, Lowton and St Mary Lowton have been brought together to form the united benefice of Lowton and Golborne with a new team ministry being established to serve the benefice. We spoke to Team Rector, Rev Bill Stalker, about the process and challenges of bringing them together and his hopes and vision for the future.
It began over few years ago and started to crystallise as several factors came together; the Deanery Mission Plan; a suggestion from Bishop David Jennings; a vacancy at St Luke's Lowton. And as practical problems emerged abstract discussions turned into concrete approaches as to the way forward.
“The initial problem was not having a model to use. It was frustrating to have nothing to work with but we did understand that every context was different and we needed to find our own way” explained Bill.
So a four to five year journey commenced with a need to bring people together and listen to their fears and hopes for the future. It had to be recognised that there were various attitudes to change “we had a clear vision for the future” said Bill “and it is OK to have a vision but you need to bring people along with you.”
The approach of Bill and Team Vicar Rev John Reed was to engage in a period of sharing, and crucially, listening to people. “you can’t address everyone’s concerns but you can listen and acknowledge them. There will always be resistance to change, through fear, uncertainty or loyalty to tradition. But I always ask people to give something a try and evaluate the results. I don’t want to ride roughshod over anyone but likewise it is not always wise to dismiss something until you’ve tried it.
An example of this working in practice was the introduction of a Family Praise Service at one of the churches. Some members voiced concerns but came along, and while it wasn’t their ‘cup of tea’ they were encouraged at seeing families and younger people in church".
The journey, so far, has been about sharing ideas, gifts and talents and looking for the positives. Bill sees it as a challenge that many churches face today and the notion of united we stand, divided we fall is important. United we can bring our gifts, talents and skills to the fore for the building of God’s Kingdom. United we look to the strengths of others to support our weaknesses. United we can serve our communities in more effective and creative ways.
One example of this is Messy Church. As Bill said “we have Messy Church working really well at St Mary’s and we are now inviting others to join us.
At a recent Praise Service we invited the music group from one of the churches to lead the singing which encouraged musicians from that church to get involved. We have used our Readers and laity more productively in order to develop non-Eucharistic Services. It takes time and good planning but we are learning and growing as a community."
That sense of unity forms the vision for the future. The work now is to continue to bring the churches together. To capitalise on the energy and enthusiasm with an aim to create a Shared Ministry Team and develop local ordained and lay ministries. Ultimately, it’s about mission, growth and service. Praying together, working together, journeying together and serving the community together for God’s Kingdom.