The Church in Wales needs to re-imagine itself in order to serve its communities more effectively, the Archbishop of Wales said at a landmark conference.
Dr Barry Morgan said changes already underway following a full-scale review aimed to help churches grow and minister more effectively.
The Archbishop was speaking at a landmark two-day conference in Llandudno on the weekend (Nov 21-22). More than 240 people from across Wales attended The Time Is Now conference to learn about changes taking place in the Church’s six diocese as part of the Church’s strategy for growth.
Called 2020 Vision, the strategy follows an independent review of the Church which was commissioned to see how it could best serve Wales by the time it celebrates its centenary in 2020. At its core are the creation of “Ministry Areas” led by teams of clergy and lay people, replacing the traditional pattern of smaller parishes led by one cleric.
The conference was facilitated by Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM and reflections were given by a prominent theological from the Church of England, Canon Dr Christina Baxter.
The Archbishop said, “This conference is about the need for us, as a church, to relate more effectively to the people and communities of Wales as we approach the centenary of our disestablishment.
“How can we, as laity and clergy together, be more effective in our mission and outreach? The Church in Wales Review, chaired by Lord Harries, was undertaken in the light of that question. Since then, the Church has been exploring the challenges set out in it and its recommendations, and is aiming to set an agenda for growth through its 2020 Vision.
“Much of this work has been carried out by dioceses and at a local level, with an emphasis on reimagining the Church in such a way that it is truly equipped to serve the communities and people of Wales. We have been required to revisit long-held understandings of how we provide ministry, by and to whom, and how we relate to our communities.
“It is not about doing more with less but more about a cultural change in the kind of church we are – realising that the mission and ministry of Jesus has been entrusted to the church as a whole, not just to bishops and clergy. How then do we together seek to worship God and serve His world?
“We are still only at the beginning of our journey, and so this is an ideal opportunity to come together as a Church and share – openly and honestly – our experiences and plans so that we can learn from one another.”
From “clean comedy” acts to community cafes – examples of new ways in which churches were reaching out to people who no longer come through their doors were given in presentations from each diocese during the conference. The themes were: Where Are We – a time of hope and change; Who Are We – are there enough of us?; Who Are We – shaping ourselves to serve the people of Wales; and Why Are We – what is the Church for?
The delegates, which included 30 people from each of the Church’s six diocese, learnt about training of Ministry Area leaders in Monmouth Diocese, involvement with wedding fairs in Llandaff Diocese, ministry to young people and families in Bangor Diocese, the setting up of a cafe in St Asaph Diocese offering free meals and prayers, the story of one church’s growth in Caia Park, Wrexham, the development of lay ministry in St Davids Diocese and the success of a family centre run by the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon.
The presentations were followed by discussion of the themes in groups and then reflections by Dr Baxter.
During the conference there were three worship sessions, one entirely on film. The addresses were given by the Revd Dr Mark Clavier, acting Principal of St Michael’s College, Cardiff, There was also a “soul space” where people could go for private prayer and meditation.
Delegates were asked to thinking outside the box and telling their stories of faith on You Cube ahead of the conference.
About 1,000 large cubes were sent to congregations and church schools across Wales and people were asked to use them to tell their stories of faith by decorating each side with words, pictures, photographs or collages.
Once they were completed about 30 from each of the Church’s six dioceses, were taken to Llandudno where they were used symbolically to build a wall, a refuge and finally an altar as part of the worship sessions. At the end of the conference, the You Cubes were handed out to different delegates for them to take back to their churches.
*Thanks to the Revd Richard Hainsworth, Vicar of Northop, for the photos