Thought for the Month (January 2012)

Dear Friends,

I don't suppose many of you are at all interested in the workings of the local Town Council that is, unless there is a problem! A neighbour regularly kippers your washing with a bonfire, or a mobile fish-and-chip wagon parks-up for trade in front of your drawing-room window! Similarly I have yet to meet many members of our congregations who give much of a thought to the workings of the Assembly and Synods of the United Reformed Church - our 'Church Councils'.

No, please don't turn over, keep reading! Remember that the Synod pays our Minister, and looks after all major property, financial and legal business for us, so Synod business does impact on each and every one of us. Our three Churches are members of the West Kent and East Sussex District Area (WKESSA, or 'whiskers' for short) of the Southern Province of the URC. The Provincial Synod meets to receive reports and enact policy twice a year. Each congregation has the right to send a representative to Synod to vote on its behalf. The last Synod meeting was on the Fifth of November (some fireworks!) and the rest of this letter is about an important new piece of policy, the LMMR, which I will bring to you now.

The Local Mission and Ministry Review (LMMR) brings together two 'Church inspections' which already exist; the occasional 'Church Visitation,' and the 'Ministerial Accompanied Self-Appraisal Scheme', both organised through our Synod District. Far from being an 'OFSTED' for the Church, these meetings are designed to help and encourage all of us in carrying out the Church's mission to the world around us.

The new LMMR is firmly based on the Church's Pastoral Profile. The Pastoral Profile sets out member-agreed objectives and specific priorities for the mission of each Church in its own area, i.e. what the Church intends to do locally, and what Ministry (paid or otherwise) and other resources it needs to do it. Hawkenbury and Rusthall have already written their Pastoral Profiles, and Tunbridge Wells needs to do so quite urgently why? Because the Pastoral Profile is central to the future scoping* of each Church and our present Minster will retire in just a couple of years from now!

The LMMR will happen every four years, with an internal check on the Pastoral Profile at the two-year point. Does it all seem a lot of fuss and bother to you? If so, can you think of any other way of keeping us all up to scratch? It is so easy for all of us to jog along happily much in the way we have always done, but that just will not do if we are to take our Lord's direct instruction to "Go and make disciples of all nations" seriously in our own local area. We do need a system such as the new LMMR to give us all a pause for thought, prayer and reflection on what our Church should really 'be' day-by-day and year-by-year.

A New Year blessing to you all,

Bob Webb.

*Scoping is the name given to the Synod District enquiry into the level of Ministry, paid or otherwise which a local Church needs, or is likely to get through the URC system. e.g. a Church in vacancy not so far from here has just been 'scoped' at 75% of a Stipendiary Minister- so it must expect to share any new incumbent a little.

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Tunbridge Wells United Reformed Church