1. What is Transforming Church?
The Church of England in our region is shaping a new vision and set of priorities for the coming years. We want to understand what we do well, what we can change for the better and create a positive way forward together.
This year-long process is called Transforming Church. Together.
We began with conversations – with communities, congregations, clergy, church leaders, and staff. Between February and April 2021 we talked with and listened to lots of different people, both within and outside the church.
We listened carefully to understand what each other think and feel about God and the Church of England, but also about our communities, society and the world.
2. How have you engaged with people?
The Diocese of Bristol covers Bristol, South Gloucestershire, North Wiltshire and Swindon. We invited everyone in our region to join the conversation about our future direction.
Over two months, we engaged with people in a variety of ways– such as through virtual meetings and workshops, an online questionnaire, social media, churches and working groups.
3. Who is it for?
Transforming Church. Together is for everyone in the Diocese of Bristol, both within and outside the church.
We aim to be relentlessly inclusive in our approach and we are committed to listening to voices that we don’t often hear, opinions that we find difficult and those that challenge the status quo. We want to engage with and understand the perspectives of people inside the church, those who relate to it and those who may never have given it a thought.
4. What is Transforming Church. Together?
Transforming Church. Together is the name of our strategy for the next five years and will be in effect from January 2023 to the end of 2028.
5. When will we be launching Transforming Church. Together?
We will be launching Transforming Church. Together in early 2023 and it will guide our activities for the next five years. Within the strategy, we have a set of short, medium, and long-term activities necessary to help make the strategy a reality. What these activities look like at a local level, is a local decision, and not driven from the centre, hence the period of discernment we are entering.
Having learnt from the implementation of previous plans, we expect to see considerable change within the five-year timeframe of this strategy, so we also fully recognise and expect that work will need to continue (learning as we go) until at least 2030.
And finally, whilst we might be able to make plans for the next few years, no-one knows what will happen in the outside world, nor can we be certain we will receive the resources we need. We must therefore be ready to flex our plans to match the available resources, as and when things change.
6. Is Transforming Church. Together just our strategy?
Yes, Transforming Church. Together is specifically our strategy and has several Diocese of Bristol-specific priorities to meet our more local needs and aspirations. However, it’s important to point out that it’s also completely aligned with the Church of England’s national Vision and Strategy and yet powerfully reflects local realities on the ground in the diocese.
It also seeks to live out the five Marks of Mission of the Anglican Communion, and so aims to:
• Witness to Christ’s saving, forgiving, reconciling love for all people
• Build welcoming, transforming communities of faith
• Stand in solidarity with people who live in poverty and need
• Challenge violence, injustice and oppression, and work for peace and reconciliation and,
• Protect, care for, and renew life on our planet.
7. Do we have the money to deliver this five-year strategy?
The strategy assumes levels of income which may vary over time; from Parish Share, new sources of income, fundraising, grant giving bodies, and the National Church. We remain confident that we will receive significant National Church investment from the new year, albeit the amount is not yet known, and we believe therefore that we will have a sound financial framework upon which to move forward with the new strategy. If the resources available change (positively or negatively), we will simply adjust the pace and sequencing of the activities in the change programme. The overall strategy will remain the same.
8. Has the Transforming Church. Together strategy been approved by our governing bodies?
Yes. Members of Bishop’s Council and Diocesan Synod approved our new strategy at the beginning of September. The full document is available here.
9. Who is leading on the Transforming Church. Together strategy?
The Bishop of Bristol and the Bishop of Swindon are leading on the Transforming Church. Together Strategy along with the Dean, Archdeacons, and Diocesan Senior Leadership Team. However, it is important to stress that this is a strategy that belongs to everyone within the Diocese, and decisions on what the strategy looks like locally is a local decision.
10. Why should parishes work with the Transforming Together. Church strategy?
The strategy envisages significant support to ministers and parishes, so that both can thrive, and grow. We are looking ahead to a period of unprecedented ministerial and parochial revitalisation, increased discipleship, positive social impact, and long term environmental and financial sustainability, but none of this can happen without parishes and benefices discerning what works for them, and what the strategy could mean for them. We encourage all parishes to think what the future could look like and ask themselves – ‘what do we need to do to get there?’
11. We are all so busy already, how will we have the time to deliver the new strategy?
We fully appreciate how busy many people are, and that parishes can lack the resources (for example, at PCC level) to do all they would wish to do. This is why the strategy envisages targeted support in parishes (for example parish admin support, young people’s workers, and school chaplaincies) as well as the provision of expert advice and support from the centre in Hillside House.
12. How many new staff will you be recruiting to deliver the new strategy?
We aim to recruit a number of staff to support parishes – mainly locally, and some centrally. Provision of additional staff is dependent on National Church funding so we can’t confirm the exact details on staffing and recruitment until we know what funding we are receiving from the National Church. What we can say is that clergy numbers will remain stable over the period (something not many other Dioceses are planning), and we will only increase central staff posts if the roles are funded by the National Church or other grant-making bodies. Availability of funds will determine the pace and scale of the recruitment, however the long-term strategy will remain the same.
13. What challenges have we and do we continue to face within the diocese?
We are living in a complex and challenging world. Our society is experiencing seismic changes; global pandemic, Brexit, persistent racism, growing inequalities, the climate crisis, the ongoing digital revolution, debates over human identity, and international conflict, are disrupting and changing both society, and communities. We also face critical challenges at a local level – lack of resources, clergy burn-out, deprivation and social injustice. Our new strategy aims to help us plan and continue to respond - not only to these challenges, but others that come our way.
We have responded to a pandemic with innovation, strength, and grace, caring for our communities and each other. We have seen new worshiping communities grow and develop, and we have faced many of the major issues in society with courage, working towards net zero, committing to racial justice and engaging with Living in Love and Faith. This strategy aims to build on what is good already, and to unleash the potential of our ministers and parishes to spread the good news of Christ.