Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Do We Need More Parishes?

In the May edition of the Southern Cross (published by Sydney Anglican Media) there was an article by Paul Davey arguing the need to plant more parishes to reach our rapidly growing city. I thought there was a flaw in the argument, so I sent the following response to the editors:

I agree with Paul Davey's analysis of the need for church planting but disagree with his solution ('Church Planting or Bust', Southern Cross, May). The need for new churches is clear, but I thought we had moved past the idea of equating church planting with creating new parishes. In our Anglican system the overheads of being a parish (administrative, financial and ministry) are too high to expect a parish in every suburb. While a congregation may only need a single pastor, parishes should ideally have team ministries with a number of specialists (such as children's ministers) as well as 'generalists' and trainees. Our 'parishes' should be the administrative hub of a number of congregations and other specialised ministries. Parishes will need to be bigger - as we can clearly see when we look at the more successful parishes in our diocese. The most effective size for parishes will be such that they can effectively reach out to their community and plant new congregations as needed with minimal outside assistance.

In reality we probably have 40 parishes that, in the next two decades, will need to amalgamate with others to allow revitalisation and to effectively minister to their local areas. Perhaps we should aim to replace these with new parishes in growth areas - and possibly add another 40 - but I believe our goal for new parishes should be more modest. Surely most of our church plants should exist under the umbrella of a supportive parish rather than expecting them to be independent from the start? Let's aim to re-develop our parishes into effective ministry units and allow new parishes to develop organically so that they start strong - rather than drawing lines on maps and expecting a healthy parish to appear from thin air.

Richard Blight

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