Magnificat Parishes

Bath Deanery Magnificat Task Group Recommendations 2017

Membership of the task group:

Catherine Sourbut (St Barnabas, Southdown), Richard Wilson (St Michael’s, Twerton), Sally Buddle, Steve Rogers (St Andrew’s, Foxhill), Domenica Oatley (Gateway Centre, Snow Hill)

Background and issues

Bath (as is the whole of England) is divided into neighbourhoods or LSOAs – Local Super Output Areas – for the purposes of measuring deprivation. In our deanery we have 62 LSOAs.

Across the diocese there are only a handful of areas where there is a significant concentration of deprivation: Weston-Super-Mare, Bridgwater, Yeovil, Taunton & Bath. In our deanery we have 5 LSOAs (in Twerton, Southdown & Foxhill) amongst the 20% most deprived nationally and we want to celebrate their vibrancy and to resource local churches in building God’s kingdom amongst the poor.

However, here in Bath we are also blessed with a very large number of the most privileged neighbourhoods; we have 27 out of 62 LSOAs in the 20% least deprived category, which is more than double the national average. As a result of the abundance of these God-given resources (first and foremost the wonderful number of passionate, committed believers across our city and deanery), we are uniquely placed to support parishes in areas of deprivation.

Recommendations for the deanery

  • Owning a shared vision and strategy together
    As a deanery we want to see hundreds of people becoming disciples from among the poorest areas of our city and we own this vision together and will hold ourselves accountable to this as a deanery
  • Being and proclaiming good news for the poor
    Accepting that the whole city will only be transformed when the poorest areas of our city are transformed, the deanery is committed to prioritising ministry and mission in the poorest areas and to the poorest people in our city
  • City-wide fundraising / vision sharing
    Recognising that there is a strategic need for us to invest in mission in the poorest areas we will share the load of fundraising and vision sharing across the city and not leave it to the poorest churches to tell their story or carry this burden alone.
  • Focusing on disciple-making
    Recognising the significant needs (social, economic, emotional) of many people in these areas and the vital importance of social action and project work, we believe that the primary focus of our mission should be on the making and growing of disciples
  • Resourcing and releasing workers
    We believe that the harvest is ripe but the workers are few.  We are currently perfectly suited for the results we are currently achieving, namely a slow trickle of new believers in areas of deprivation. Significant growth will come only as we significantly increase the resources we invest in these areas and every parish has a role to play in this mission to the poor.
  • Opportunities for learning
    We recognise the opportunity for being involved in God’s mission to the poorest of city as a gift to the wider church – a place of growth, learning and joy
  • Increasing links and support – No-one alone
    We have noticed that churches are more likely to thrive in these areas when there are mature and developed links with other better resourced churches – for example:  HTCD & St Andrews, Foxhill or St Swithin’s & Gateway Centre, Snowhill.  We want to explore the development of stronger links between resourcing churches with Twerton and Southdown.  We also want to make sure that every parish has a meaningful and intentional relationship with one of the poorest parishes, especially supporting them in prayer
  • The hidden poor in every community
    As a deanery we are committed to preaching good news to the poor in every parish.  We will encourage one another in every church to make sure that we are connecting with and sharing our good news with the hidden poor in every community.  We are currently part of the diocesan-wide ‘Magnificat Parishes’ group which is committed to producing resources to help every church conduct an audit of its area to consider how best to identify and then engage with those living in deprivation – watch this space! Our aim is that each parish sets a specific mission goal relating to the last, lost and last in their local area
  • Encouraging deeper understanding of the issues
    Recognising the particular issues for mission and ministry in the most deprived communities we want to increase the level of awareness and connection that everyone has with these issues.  We are exploring the ideas of ‘Jericho’ evenings of prayer and Magnificat Sunday as ways of sharing the story and experience of ministry and mission in these areas. We also hope to benefit from the work that the diocesan ‘Magnificat Parishes’ group is commissioning regarding how best to train and equip those God is calling in these communities and to link with them in encouraging and sharing best practice of mission and discipleship across similar contexts.
  • Increasing prayer
    We believe that there is a connection between our prayer life as a City-wide Church and the impact of the gospel in these areas.  We are committed to increasing the amount of intentional prayer with and for the poorest areas across our city
  • Engaging the diocese
    We celebrate the emphasis on mission and evangelism at the heart of everything in the diocese and recognise the specific strategic mandate that the diocese has to resource mission to the poorest areas in the region. We are committed to working with the diocese and with others working in areas of deprivation to help to see the gospel shared and take root.
  • Annual review of the ministry
    As a deanery we will undertake an annual review of mission and ministry amongst the poorest areas of our city

An extract from the Archbishop’s task group on Evangelism (2016)

Ministry to the Urban Estates

1. ‘A church that abandons the poor has abandoned God.’ These words of the Archbishop of Canterbury have been important to the work of the Evangelism Task Group and from the start part of our agenda has been the particular challenges that evangelism poses in our nation’s large social housing estates.

2. The problem is real, and the Church is working hard to get to grips with it. An initial analysis carried out approximates Church attendance per capita on these estates is at 0.8% compared to a national figure of 1.7%. The rate of decline over the past five years has been 2.3% nationally compared to 8.4% on the estates. As the church worships the God who has a bias to the poor so you might think would be investing disproportionately in these areas, but the opposite is the case. Nationally we spend £7.90 on ministry per head of population. On the estates it is just £5.09. This is a matter for regret but it also motivates us to action

3. And of course behind the figures lie the stories. Estates ministry can be lonely and isolating, often clergy feel stuck and forgotten, it can be hard to identify and train up lay leaders and the evangelistic resources that have proved effective in other parts of the country often just don’t seem to work in the estates context.

4. The Church of England can share in national debate in issues of justice and inequality simply because it carries the authenticity that comes from being present in every part of the country. But our presence on the estates is under severe threat. We must not abandon the poor.

5. The Task Group has therefore made estates ministry one of its priorities. On March 1st we will gather together experts and practitioners from across the country to a day conference at Bishopthorpe Palace. We will hear stories of challenge and success from the estates, reflect theologically on the ministry of evangelism in this context and point to concrete steps that can be taken to safeguard our presence on the estates.

6. It is our prayer that the day will challenge the church to give substance to its bias to the poor and will lead to action to support church leaders in these areas. Because “only with a bigger church can we make a bigger difference”.

The Rt Revd Philip North (on behalf of the Task Group)
The Bishop of Burnley