Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Where next for the Team Parish of Elland

We are on the verge of a new beginning in the Parish, or perhaps I should write the Parishes of Elland. Following widespread consultation, last year our PCC began the process of dismantling the Team Parish of Elland, and creating two Parishes, St Mary the Virgin, Elland, and All Saints, Elland, to form a United Benefice of these two Parishes. The Diocese and our Bishop Stephen, together with other interested parties, have all supported this Scheme, and we are now awaiting final confirmation from the Church Commissioners, which may arrive as early as 1st September, but is more likely to be 1st October.
 
Full details of the Scheme have been on display in our Churches, together with a map of likely new Parish boundaries. Basically, everything to the South of Victoria Road and Dewsbury Road forms the new Parish of All Saints, and we have also tidied up an anomaly by ‘ceding’ all of Ravenstone Drive to the Parish of Greetland and West Vale, rather than at the moment, where the boundary goes through several living rooms and someone’s kitchen. We are keeping the Historic title of Rector, so I will become Rector of the United Benefice, rather than Team Rector, and will continue to live in Elland Rectory. Our Church School will serve both Parishes, and members of the Pastoral Team will continue to be Licensed, work across and belong to both Parishes. Both Parish Churches will continue to be open and welcoming to all, largely regardless of home address, except where we are obliged by Canon Law to take notice.
 
It is worth reminding ourselves why we are doing this. The Team Parish, established in 1983, enabled All Saints to become a Parish Church, and encouraged us to look at collaborative and supportive ways of working as both priests and people. There have been many good things to celebrate, and we will be marking some of those things in our Worship in both churches in weeks to come. Yet a Team Parish needs at least 2 full time Incumbent Priests, and, since August 2005 when Fr Martin Wood left, that has not been the case, and the post of Team Vicar was ‘cut’ by the Diocese after I became Team Rector. In other words, we have been left with a structure designed to be operated by 2 Incumbents, operated by 1. After I leave, (no plans yet, sorry, although the appendicitis nearly got me!), a Team that is not a Team will not be terribly attractive in terms of our Succession Planning.

Alongside this, it became clear that many people in both of our Churches felt that the identity and distinctiveness of our Churches’ worshipping and decision making traditions had got lost in this thing called ‘the Team Parish.’ As we explored ways of working with the Wakefield Ministry Scheme and the Core Groups, it also seemed right to allow the two Church Councils, or DCCs, to reclaim their identity, and become the places where the real thinking and decision making was to happen. In the new structure the DCCs become individual PCCs in their own right, and the existing Team PCC/Standing Committee layer is the one that is taken out.
 
Inevitably, there will be teething troubles in setting up a new structure, and a need to bear with one another; there is a lot of ‘detail’ to sort out. The crucial word we have to work on is the first one in the phrase, United Benefice. For we are still, along with our brothers and sisters of other traditions in Elland, one people of God. All through this process, the need to be United has been stressed, we cannot and will not ignore one another, that we may be  committed to taking our share in God’s Mission in Elland together.