Ministry in the Church of England has changed radically over the last two decades. It was at one time unusual to find a vicar with responsibility for more than one parish. Now it is more unusual to find a vicar with only one parish except in urban environments. There are examples all over the country, particularly in rural areas, of multiple parishes grouped together under the responsibility of a single Incumbent. Patterns of worship, spiritual and pastoral care has inevitably had to change in order to accommodate these groupings but there is also a need to address the strategic management of such groupings. Here in the Ashford Deanery there are examples of such change. The town parishes of Willesborough with Sevington, Great Chart with Singleton, Kingsnorth with Shadoxhurst, Kennington, Christchurch and St. Francis have now been brought together into a Single Parish, ‘the Parish of Ashford Town’, under the leadership of a Team Rector. There is now one PCC serving all the churches comprised of elected representatives from each church community. The A20 Parishes of Smeeth, Mersham, Brabourne, Stowting, Sellindge and Monks Horton each at present with their own PCC are in the process of moving to a Single Parish. Here in the G7 benefice we are recognising that the management of 7 different councils takes an inordinate amount of time that would be better used in developing the mission and ministry of the churches rather than in administration and unnecessary duplication.
A short discussion with regard to Single Parish has taken place at all PCC meetings during March and will also be raised at all the forthcoming APCMs where questions can be asked. Since this is an issue that affects all of us, I have arranged for Emma Sivyer, Executive Officer from the Diocese who deals with the whole process of moving from multiple to single parish, to be with us at an open meeting. This will take place at 7.30pm on Thursday May 4th in Little Chart Church. I strongly urge you all to attend bringing with you your questions, your anxieties and your hopes.
If we do move to a Single Parish, this is an opportunity to rename the benefice. I would be very interested to hear from you if you think you can suggest a name that describes our seven communities.