Book: "Parochial Vision"
Author: Nick Spencer
Revolution doesn't always come in a flashy dustjacket. Parochial Vision is a ground-breaking book with far-reaching implications to the church living in a post-Christendom world.
Spencer's focus is the Church of England (COE) and it's 1,000 year long commitment to the parish system of one church with one priest for one district. This land-based concept of pastoral care lead to the COE falling further and further behind as England rapidly urbanized over the past century. It also created an enormous drain on the church's treasury to maintain the roughly 12,000 parish buildings. Spencer jokes that the COE used to be called the Tory party at prayer, but now should be called the National Trust at prayer.
The solution, according to Spencer, is a return to the pre-Norman Conquest church model of the Minster church. A Minster church was designed for missional times. It evolved during the period of Roman collapse to respond to the need to transform the Anglo-Saxon culture.
What are the marks of a Minster congregation:
1. A regional identity. The Minster congregation has a vision and plan for ministering to a region that is a self-identified unit (e.g. downtown Salt Lake City as opposed to the entire Salt Lake valley). This region interestingly enough seems always to be roughly encompasssed by a six mile radius from the Minster Church.
2. A collegial Staff. The Minster church is staffed by clergy who have primary pastoral care for distinct congregations/parishes within the overall Minster structure. These congregations are resourcced by the clergy but have an local leadership in place. This provides a balance for clergy between direct pastoral care and the development of specialty ministry areas based upon giftedness that minster to the entire Minster community (e.g. teaching, counseling, etc.).
3. A Training Center. The Minster's missional focus and larger span of care raises up people who are called to ministry who can receive very hands on practice tied to theological reflection. The Minster church's mission keeps in check the tendency for pastoral interns to become overly focused on intellectual pursuits to the detriment of actual ministry to people.
4. Flexible Facilities: Central offices of the Minster church could provide meeting space, specialized equipment (i.e. recording studio, video production, etc.), bookstore, library, health center, mentoring programs, classroom space or even room for commercial or non-profit development.
5. Missional Stance: The Minster church's driving purpose is innovative ministry to a non-Christian culture. It provides a way to share integrated word and deed ministry to a specific region by distinct (yet connected) local congregaions/parishes.
Why is this revolutionary?
A. The Minster model is economically practical:
Instead of resources going to maintain buildings that are rarely used, this model treats facilities as a 24/7/365 asset to be utilized for a wide variety of uses (education, worship, commerce, community events/celebrations). It also allows for connected congregations to share resources (human, informational and economic) for ministry excellence.
B. The Minster model is ecclesiastically flexible:
Pastoral staff are able to develop specialty gifts (encouraging excellence and job satifaction) without loosing connection to the realities of ongoing ministry to people within a specific context/culture. This is not an "ivory tower" but a model that deals with real-life pastoral/missional challenges with greater skill than possible with typical "parish-driven" models.
This model also opens up a variety of ways of serving the local church for more than those called to "pastoral" office.
C. The Minster model is missionally nimble:
Because the mister church is able to service specific communities/groups without having to "plant an individual church" it means groups that would not be targeted for parish churches because they are not economically viable, can be developed. Also, new opportunities for outreach are not shelved because of lack of staffing -- because of a collegial staff, people are available for quick response to opportunity.
D. The Minster model is culturally relevant:
The Minster model has a wholistic view of ministry to it's community, thus it is percieved as a vital part of the fabric of the region.