The All Hallows' PMC steering team, ably supported by two St John’s students – Hils Revill and Darren Howie – has just participated in our second ‘cluster’. This is a gathering of the parishes participating in PMC to share our learning, reflect on the process so far and learn about our tasks for the next stage in the process. The parishes we’re joining together with are the Fosse Team – a team of seven parishes with eight churches just north of Leicester, St Paul’s, Carlton and the three Clifton churches.
Our steering group currently comprises Yvonne Gimson, Richard Hanks, Jenny Hempstead and Ruth Holbrook. I participate too as what PMC refers to as a ‘spiritual leader’. There are three clusters each year over a Friday and Saturday. The Friday daytime is focused on spiritual leaders and provides opportunities for learning from each other and the PMC leadership team how we can best support the process. The Friday evening and Saturday daytime is for the steering teams and involves others from time to time too (for instance at the November cluster we are asked to bring some additional representatives of the PCC – more on that after the summer break).
The whole of the first year is focused on listening. We have some specific tasks to undertake but these are all ways to expand who we listen to and how we listen to them. We have already completed our church timeline, assisted by Sandra Cobbin and Alex Albans of Clarity Development who also facilitated our listening slots in December last year and the feedback from them in January. The listening slots and feedback weren’t specifically part of the PMC process but have helped prepare the ground for our timeline and what comes next.
Between now and the end of July members of the ‘listening team’ will conduct about two dozen interviews with a selection of people with varying degrees of involvement in both the 9:30 service and Don’t Forget Your Cornflakes! The responses to the questions asked will be anonymously recorded and analysed by the people running PMC. We’ll also conduct some interviews with people in the wider community. Jenny Hempstead is also busy collating various statistics about our church over the last 15 years including such things as attendance and finances. The All Hallows steering team will feed back a summary of our learning from all these listening exercises in the Autumn. The aim of all this is essentially to hold up a mirror to see our church as it really is now, not as it once was, nor as we would like it to be, but as it is now in this time and place.
Alongside this practical research we are also learning six ‘spiritual disciplines’ that are designed to help us see more clearly what God is up to in our community and in our church. The first of these, ‘dwelling in the Word’ has been introduced into our PCC and Standing Committee meetings. We are now aiming to make it something we can all share in, by including it once a month at both our parish Eucharist and Don’t Forget Your Cornflakes (DFYC). We’ve had a go already at DFYC and are aiming to introduce it in place of a sermon on the 27th July.
There’ll be some explanation in the preceding couple of weeks, but basically it involves listening to a Bible passage and then sharing in pairs with a ‘reasonably friendly-looking stranger’ (someone we don’t know so well) what caught our attention in the reading. Each pair then gets together with another pair and each person shares what their conversation partner said to them, not what they themselves noticed. The idea is to encourage hearing God through listening to each other and to make us even better than we are already at listening to each other – important in its own right but also great preparation for listening to people who are not yet members of our church family. We stay (dwell) with the same passage for a whole year so that it can really get inside us as much as we want to get inside the text.
The second discipline of ‘corporate spiritual discernment’ is something that was introduced at this most recent cluster. It is a way of together approaching the question of what God is doing. We’ll be giving this a go at our Harvest Bring-and-Share lunch in the Autumn (most likely on Sunday 5th October).
I trust this will all bring a bit of clarity for you all, especially if you’ve been wondering what it’s all about and what is happening. I look forward to sharing this journey with you. There will soon be an info board in church with general info and updates and a space to post your questions and comments.
from the Revd Mark Rodel