The Diocese of Bristol - "a hopeful place indeed"
Six months into her new role as an Archdeacon, Christine Froude reflects on what she has seen so far around the Diocese.
From the top of the tower at Aust to the crypt at Christ Church Clifton…
From the simple beauty of a Lammas Day service in a barn at Cold Ashton to the solemnity of a 9/11 commemoration in Malmesbury Abbey…
From faculty petitions, de minimis applications and requests for temporary re-ordering to triennial inspections, admittance of churchwardens and licensing of clergy…
I think I can say with certainty after six months that the lot of an Archdeacon is proving to be nothing if not varied!
Looking back through the diary since April, I have now preached at different churches each Sunday and visited over 80 parishes to meet with clergy or parish representatives on a range of matters relating to the physical and spiritual lives of their churches.
Through this time of transition and discovery, I have now seen confirmed something which I knew already – namely, that as a diocese, and the collective body of Christ in this corner of the world, we draw more strength from the breadth and variety of the expressions of our faith than we do division.
I have been inspired and blessed by many, many examples of the work being done to build communities of wholeness with Christ at their centres, which have been prayerfully and sensitively designed to meet the needs of the particular contexts in which they are being implemented.
It’s hard to single out specific examples but the following give a snapshot of what I’ve witnessed.
Most recently, at St Peter’s Penhill in Swindon deanery, I saw a church facing persistent vandalism and anti social behaviour but nonetheless continuing to reach out into its community in love. Lunch clubs and games afternoons, young people’s activities and coffee mornings are all challenging people’s perceptions of what the church can – and should – be in this area.
In rural South Gloucestershire, church members at Doynton are using their ancient building to serve a new and growing worshipping community that enjoys the informal style of café church. 40 people now attend this monthly service and the rear of the church has been sensitively re-ordered to accommodate them.
Finally, in Bristol, an enthusiastic and proactive leadership team at Holy Trinity Horfield is working hard to foster personal commitment and growth in its members, including a recent stewardship campaign which has raised the profile and practice of regular giving to the extent that the PCC is able to increase its generous gift to the overall ministry of the Diocese as well as enhance its churchyard and hall.
I remain convinced that the local church is the hope of the world, and from my privileged position as one of the team called to support the oversight of over 200 local churches in our area, the Diocese of Bristol is looking like a very hopeful place indeed!
I look forward to continuing to meet with you all as I travel around the Diocese – hopefully at the Visitations in the Spring if not before - and I thank you for all you do to play your part in serving God and one another in your communities.
Christine Froude, Archdeacon of Malmesbury