Parish of Central Exeter Second Mission Action Plan (2013)
Context of MAP
Considerations that impact on the plan
Achieving the vision through Goals and related Activities
The Mission Action Plan (MAP) is a developing document. The first Mission Action Plan explained its genesis. This first plan was formally presented to the Bishop at a service on Sept 3 2009. Although the plan has been discussed and reviewed at subsequent Annual meetings, a full review seemed inappropriate before the reordering or St Stephens had been completed. The achieved outcomes of the goals and objectives of the first MAP are not shown here.
In presenting this second Mission Action Plan to the PCC in 2013, the vision and values are largely unchanged, but revisions have been made to the goals and objectives, reflecting the progress made. Some abridgment of the context statements have been made from the first plan, reducing the length of the document.
A further full review should take place between three and five years after acceptance of this second plan – between 2016 and 2018.
Being part of God’s mission of love and reconciliation in and through Jesus Christ, we are committed to:
Giving breathing space
• Providing an open, inclusive and non-judgemental atmosphere;
• Providing a range of opportunities for worship and prayer;
• Informing others about us;
• Innovative use of our church buildings.
Living the values
• Growing and developing our numerous and varied groups and congregations;
• Supporting ourselves and others on the spiritual journey;
• Supporting our work through prayer;
• Responding to the needs of others;
• Being open to the call of the Spirit.
Engaging with the City
• Discovering what others need from us;
• Developing the use of all our churches to support the local community;
• Working with other agencies and churches;
• Accessibility for all within our buildings.
Mission Action Plan : Context
A city centre, even one as compact as Exeter provides a different environment for a parish compared to a village, small town or suburb. Despite some new residential properties, the Parish of Central Exeter has very few residents within its boundaries, but thousands who work, shop and take their leisure. The pace is fast, people are busy, and time is precious. The rhythms of daily life have been changing everywhere, and in the city centre this is noticeable by longer opening hours of shops and offices, Sunday trading, the growth of restaurants, fast food outlets and clubs.
The main resources of the Parish to meet the challenges of mission to a city centre are its five medieval churches and their location. Our human resources are limited, and close to being over-stretched. However they are skilful, resilient, committed and willing to bring about change.
Ever since the mid 1970s the Parish has understood that it should be providing more than church services and has viewed its buildings as a resource for others. With the exception of St Olaves whose layout and furnishing militates against significant wider use, all the other churches are now in regular use for community activities, many if not most of which are led and organised by organisations that are separate from the Parish. The growth of these activities over the last five years has been marked.
The Parish is active in its mission to the city. It has raised over £1.5 million enabling St Stephens to be transformed into a church that can serve the city centre more effectively. Our Mission Action Plan incorporates the need to maintain and develop all we already do. Any expansion of the use of our churches will require additional resources, mainly in terms of people, although there are financial implications too. We shall need to develop ways of working with others, or of outsourcing (as happens for coffee mornings) to make this happen.
Considerations that impact on our Plan
Active or passive communication?
The Christian message is communicated in many ways. We can be active in communication through what we say and do, but that requires us to be there when others visit our churches, and most of the times when others are in the church, we are not. This means we have to rely heavily on ‘passive’ communication – providing material within the buildings as well as letting the buildings themselves communicate to the visitor. Getting the nature of these passive messages right requires care, avoiding preaching and paternalism, and recognising that fewer and fewer people have had regular exposure to Christian symbolism or teaching.
Use or commitment?
We welcome all our visitors, but will ensure that users respect our values and Christian traditions. Use and visiting is not the same as commitment, and whilst we encourage the former, it is because we hope that at some stage this can lead to commitment to the Christian life. We need to find ways that help people cross the threshold from curiosity to faith.
Doing more or doing better?
It is almost a natural response from the Parish of Central Exeter to want to do more. But to continue what we do now and do more requires having the capacity to take on extra things. There may be things we need to stop doing. However it does seem clear that in the short term at least, any significant additional activities will have to be planned and resourced in conjunction with other churches or organisations. We also believe that much of our vision can be achieved not by doing more things, but by doing what we do now differently, and better. We need as it were to raise our Christian game.
Love and leadership
Having a plan is one thing, but it is the way that it is implemented that will make all the difference. This is not just an issue for the chair of the PCC, the churchwardens or the clergy. Each member of the parish carries a personal responsibility to show the love of God in their dealings with each other and not least towards those who use the church. It is through the small acts of love, care and concern for others that we shall succeed. Without these and the under-girding power of prayer, all planning is in vain.
Achieving the Vision: Outcomes
We must attract more people to enter and use our churches and find it a positive experience. We must engage with the public by:
• Communicating Information about events and our church life on the church noticeboards, website and in other places as appropriate in a manner that attracts interest. Notices should be removed promptly when they are no longer relevant.
• Providing high quality customer service to our visitors and users so that they feel welcomed and, where appropriate, heard.
• Actively seeking feedback from visitors and users, collecting and analysing that information and reporting to the planning group twice a year.
We must encourage visitors, church members and church users in their spiritual journeys, challenging towards deeper levels of Christian commitment. We must engage with those who come into our churches by:
• Providing suitable literature and displays within the churches that communicate the history of that church building and its architecture; the role of that church within the parish, and explains or illustrates Christian beliefs and values to our visitors.
• Developing and maintaining a parish library at St Stephens;
• Continuing to provide facilities for prayer and prayer requests and having regular meetings of the Church Prayer Group.
• Making use of the books read at Book Club, and the knowledge and insights of our members to provide a ‘thought for the month’.
• Continuing the Bible Study and Lent groups.
• Ensuring that worship is well-led and meeting the needs and aspirations of those present.
• Allowing each church building to speak for itself, giving breathing space to those who enter.
We must meet our ongoing parish commitments, seeking efficient and effective use of our resources, with other Anglican or Ecumenical colleagues. We engage with fellow Christians by:
• Continuing to promote tax efficient giving and ensuring our income can be aligned with planned expenditure. We do not commit ourselves to expenditure without a clear plan for how it is to be funded.
• Creating at least two new ‘partnership’ arrangements with other organisations before the time of the next revision to provide some form of community service or Christian action using our churches.
• Promoting the work of the City Centre Chaplaincy.
• Increasing the number of people on our electoral roll to 50 by the time of the next revision.