Changes in patterns of ministerial service mean that a resourcing service at provincial level that can support the life of faith in the local parish church is urgently needed. An enabling Hub can draw locally generated resources into a national asset library. Such a hub is a critical necessity to equip commissioned or licensed lay leaders so they may serve and sustain the light of incarnate faith in local churches across England.
One of the humbling and inspiring features of the Church of England is the quality of thought, discernment and creativity found in the people of faith scattered across the 15,000 or so parishes. The commitment to subsidiarity in the Anglican churches, including this Church of England, means that there are few readily available platforms for drawing these invested gifts back to make them available for the common good across the wider church.
An authorised hub with national leadership would allow the best content and resources produced in Church of England to surface for the benefit of the whole people of God.
Why is this needed?
Changes in the pattern of ministerial deployment and creative acts by Bishops in various places are leading to the rapid authorisation via ‘Bishops Commission’ or similar instrument of lay people to act as service leaders, discipleship coaches, as pastoral workers or preachers.
The probability of success for such initiatives would be greatly enhanced were resources available to this new cadre of lay leaders in the church.
What sort of resource are we talking about?
Predominantly resources which enable the new cadre to effectively serve their congregation in their role. We anticipate that very many of these leaders will be ‘time poor’ and that resources which enable them to spend more time ‘doing’ and less time ‘preparing’ will predominate. Four classes of material might be considered:
- drawing existing resources together with minimal modification
- providing access to appropriate projects provided by para church organisations, or research by appropriate bodies.
- adapting existing programmes from specific churches or areas to make them ‘widely deployable’
- Least commonly, at least initially, to commission specific projects.\
How would we know what to provide in such a hub?
The true scope of such hub can only be precisely determined as users interact with the service. The project would benefit from an Agile approach similar to that commonly used in software development which would iterate rapidly from minimally viable product based on the analytics gained from users.
Why doesn’t it happen already?
The commitment to subsidiarity in the Anglican churches mean that there are few internal organisational vehicles for sharing the true span of the quality of invested in the lives of the faithful. Many excellent para church projects contribute valuable work in specific areas, but there is a specific lack of a provincially authorised source of curated products.
What models could we look at and learn from?
The model of the best bits of Open Access publishing in the Academic world is striking. Here are ‘Journals’ of every flavour, which provide a neutral space for academics from many different (and frequently competing) institutions to share knowledge. Typically they are managed by a largely volunteer editorial board, and the requirements for peer review, and other academic activities are met voluntarily from within the user community.
Recent developments have seen the Open Access community focusing on preserving the entire asset stack relating to the research paper – rather than just the final text. This move the Open Access journal towards a fusion of a document server and digital asset mangers.
These developments both conceptual and suggest that both in terms of concept and available platforms the church could be pushing at an open door in implementing such a resource hub.
Who should run this?
People who understand
- the software design aspects of the problem
- the user needs and interface issues
- the existing resources available across the world
- the future of the English Church
- developments in missiology
What roadblocks might exist
Proposed digital products such as this require considerable user literacy, which evidence suggests is lacking in wider congregations. Whether it is lacking in the specific cadre of new ‘lay leaders’ is unclear. There are also barriers relating to bandwidth in some of the more isolated parts of the country, which mean there may need to be a physical media request service.
Finally where resources include provision for leaders to interact with digital products in the context of leading services there are issues because many churches lack the hardware to permit this. It may be necessary to think creatively and provide a standardised product similar to a mobile digital advertising display adapted to be suitably elegant and compatible with the listed buildings etc, to aid the delivery in some of the smallest and most delicate settings.
Where did this idea come from
I’m indebted to a collection of people including Tom Pearson for ideas presented at the 2018 Church of England Digital Labs hack day concerning a project called the ‘Church Support Hub’.
© Ian Wyllie 2019 for this post, with every expectation of sharing freely in the Church should someone be interested in taking the ideas on. I assert my moral rights etc.