Connor Diocese’s Vision Strategy moved on a stage on Tuesday April 17 with the first of nine Rural Deanery meetings taking place in St Peter’s, Antrim Road, Belfast.
Clergy, select vestry members and parishioners from churches across the North Belfast Rural Deanery attended the meeting which was led by the Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy.
Around 180 people were welcomed by Bishop Alan, who spoke about the background to the Vision Strategy and the reasons for it, in particular the need for churches to adapt to the changing culture and communities in which they minister.
Mr Roy Totten, a member of the Vision Strategy Group, gave a brief outline of the findings of a survey of parishes in the diocese, highlighting both the positive and the negative outcomes.
Bishop Alan then addressed some of the specifics of changing culture and context, something he had explored in depth in his recent series of Lent seminars.
As part of the process, the Vision Strategy group has been identifying examples of good practice in parishes across the diocese, and a Powerpoint presentation on some of the projects and ideas parishes have found successful was shown.
This illustrated the breadth and variety of projects that have been initiated, highlighting the positive outcomes of each project as well as identifying things that, with hindsight, parishes would do differently.
At the meeting each parish was given a copy of the presentation to take back to their churches to prompt ideas and inspire parishes to consider what projects might best serve the needs of their community.
Bishop Alan then asked everyone to break off into parish groups, and each group discussed a series of set issues relating to changes in the context around their parish, signs of a widening gap between the church and the community and their fears and hopes about engaging with the community. They were also asked to think about possible next steps for their parish.
These discussions will continue within parishes as the strategy progresses.
Following a break for fellowship and refreshments, kindly prepared by the ladies and gentlemen of St Peter’s, Bishop Alan responded to comments and questions and spoke about how the diocese would assist parishes on this ‘journey.’
The meeting closed with a short act of worship led by the Rev Canon Nigel Baylor, Rural Dean for North Belfast.
The next meeting takes place in Derryvolgie Parish on May 2 and is for the Rural Deanery of Derriaghy. For a full list of meetings and further information on Connor’s Vision Strategy, please follow the link to the left of this page.