What is the theology behind Fit for Mission?
It is rich and deep-rooted in a biblical understanding of the primacy of making disciples of all nations (Matt 28) and that this requires the people of God to step more fully into the harvest field (Luke 10), through to a deep understanding of the mutuality of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12) and the generosity of the people of God (2 Cor 8). There has also been a strong sense that like the people of Israel, we have not been this way before (Josh 3). And much else besides
Does a parish have to be part of Fit for Mission?
No. Each parish is free to make its own decision. However, if a parish isn’t part of FfM then it won’t be able to access any of the resources which will be available through FfM.
What are the positives about being part of Fit for Mission?
- Fit for Mission will kick-start the planting and revitalisation of local worshipping communities/congregations, through envisioning, training and supporting clergy and lay leaders. As a diocese, we still have a significant capacity of great people, clergy and lay. While we have that capacity Fit for Mission will provide the opportunity to engage in an even more focussed way with our communities so that more of the 99% who do not currently engage in following Jesus in a worshipping community may come to know Jesus’ love and Him as Lord.
- The Larger Parish can make decisions on priorities and use of resources to address those priorities e.g. if the local leaders agreed that much more of their capacity should be directed towards young people, they could make that happen.
- Increased well-being, especially for clergy, through being part of a supportive team; reduced isolation.
- Some admin can be dealt with more efficiently across a larger geography e.g. funerals to ensure that funeral directors receive as quick a ‘yes’ answer as possible. As a larger unit, it is easier to use the latest software for managing finance and communication and adhering properly to GDPR. Financial management will be clearer and more transparent, enabling sensible and good decisions to be made to give greater opportunity for the gospel. This will free up clergy and lay time and energy for mission.
- Statutory compliance and the burden of regulation is generally a problem within our buildings (fire, electrical testing, boiler maintenance etc). This can be managed more consistently as a whole.
- There are savings to be made if some items are purchased centrally, such as insurance and energy. Wigan saved £55,000 per year on insurance by combining everything into one policy, and that will increase as work is done to refine insured values.
- We need to face the buildings issue head-on. This can only be done by considering the needs and opportunities within a larger area.
- Having fewer people involved in governance (PCCs) we can have more people involved in engaging with our communities.
What will it feel like for the person in the pew?
We hope that it will feel really exciting as people start to explore new vocations, new possibilities and new people start to join. We hope there’s a greater sense of energy with people able to get stuck into what God is calling them to, but every parish will continue to offer the full range of worship services of the Church of England and many people will be able to attend church in the way that they always have done with the friends they continue to have.
How much flexibility is there at a local level to shape this?
Fit for Mission will be locally led. There are certain parameters – for example, it has to be about the 4 priorities of introducing people to Jesus, deepening discipleship, developing Christian leaders and working for justice, and there has to be a commitment to working together in larger parishes. But how all this is done, what detailed choices are made and what this means on the ground is absolutely a local decision. The diocese has provided a framework which will enable a significant step change to take place; it has done a lot of thinking and has prepared and sought resources to make the step change possible. But the details are decided locally.
How are different traditions going to be managed?
All traditions will be encouraged to continue under the oversight of their named priest; all will be encouraged to grow and multiply through regular reviews and mission planning. This commitment to all traditions flourishing – not simply being maintained but absolutely flourishing – will be a key PCC and leadership responsibility.
How will a single PCC relate to the leadership of a church or worshipping community?
The aim of having a single PCC is to streamline governance and practical oversight and release time for missional activities in the churches. However, there will need to be a local leadership team for each church (with a collection of congregations/justice initiatives) or for a new worshipping community that will be planted. The leadership team will have more time to focus on mission and ministry because most of the governance and much of the admin will be centralised. The aim is to focus on mission and ministry.
What rationale will be used for deciding which/if church buildings will close?
This will be worked through carefully by the larger parish. A local ‘Right Buildings’ team will work with a professional buildings strategy manager to do the work to make a proposal for the buildings needed in the larger parish for the future. There’s no simple tick-box formula for this. A process has been carefully constructed which looks at the following areas: o Social & Spiritual – supporting strong, vibrant and healthy communities o Environment – enhancing and protecting our natural and built environment o Economic – making buildings sustainable and fit for current and near-future purposes/context The process considers key factors such as the location of the building; current condition of the building; current use(s) of the building; current health of the congregation(s) meeting in the building; potential enhanced uses of the building; whether there are other assets that could be used to create resource to invest in the building; proximity of other suitable/more suitable buildings, and – increasingly in the coming years – carbon net zero assessments and impacts.
Who will be responsible for or ‘owns’ all the money from the current parishes?
The Trustees of a charity are the ones who ‘own’ (are the custodians of) that charity’s money with the legal responsibility to account for that money and to ensure it is used responsibly to further the charity’s objectives. For Church of England Parishes, the Parochial Church Council are the Charity Trustees. Thus, it is the new PCC that will be responsible for all the money and assets that were originally held by the previous PCCs.
Who pays the Parish/Deanery Share?
The Larger Parish. Parish/Deanery Share is principally your contribution towards the cost of our clergy (their stipends, pensions, housing, training, etc.), licensed lay ministers and work with schools. These costs are shared out proportionally amongst all the deaneries of our diocese based on criteria set by our Diocesan Synod.
Will we lose all our reserves into the larger parish budget?
Some parishes in the diocese have significant reserves – most do not. There is therefore a fear that those with decent reserves will lose them as they now belong to the new parish these reserves will be spent or automatically re-distributed across the larger parish to support those with less.
This is not how things will work for 3 reasons:
- Legal – if the monies were given for particular expressed purposes (a restricted fund) those purposes must be honoured. They cannot simply be overridden.
- Principle – free or unrestricted reserves held by a parish will become designated funds by decision of the new PCC. They will be designated to the church which held them and that designation will be honoured unless it is agreed, through discussion, that the funds should be reallocated for something of greater priority (an emergency or other parish wide mission).
- Practical – the aim of Fit for Mission 2 (FfM) is to invest in growth, not subsidise decline. Congregations/worshipping communities in a new parish are expected to work together for growth. So, all money should be used to resource growth (which ultimately will benefit the whole parish) not keep a church or an activity on its last legs for a little longer. St Paul puts it like this: “our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality”. (2 Cor 8:13)