Around 200 people from the 10 parishes, unions and groups of parishes which make up the Mid Belfast Rural Deanery met in Holy Trinity, Ballysillan, on Monday September 10.
This was the eighth of a series of nine rural deanery meetings organised by the Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, and the Diocesan Vision Strategy group.
The meeting was opened by the Rural Dean, the Rev Robin Moore, and Bishop Alan spoke about the thinking behind 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.
The Rev Alan McCann, rector of Holy Trinity, Woodburn, a member of the Vision Strategy group, outlined the findings of a survey of parishes in the diocese, highlighting both the positive and negative outcomes, and Bishop Alan addressed some of the specifics of our changing culture and context, something he had explored in depth during his Lent seminars earlier this year.
The meeting was shown a Powerpoint presentation of some examples of good practice already going on across the diocese. Parishes were each given a copy of the extended presentation to take back to their churches to prompt ideas and inspire them to consider what projects might best serve the needs of their community.
Following a break for tea and fellowship, the parishes were encouraged to get into their parish groups and discuss 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 and it is intended that these discussions will continue within parishes as the strategy progresses.
Bishop Alan addressed the meeting again, summing up the process and thanking the rector and parishioners of Holy Trinity, Ballysillan, for their hospitality before the rural dean closed with a short act of worship.
The final rural deanery meeting takes place in St Nicholas Parish Hall, Belfast, on September 26 and is for the rural deanery of South Belfast.