The Rt Revd Keith Sinclair, came to Great Budworth Deanery in January and met with clergy and laity. At an open evening meeting Bishop Keith responded to a series of questions from the parishes, As part of his three yearly cycle of Deanery visitations The Bishop of Birkenhead, ranging from “what is a bishop?” to questions concerning the parochial system and its viability, the parish share, the future of the church, the use of social media, undertaking mission, and issues in human sexuality. A large group of people from across the Deanery were in attendance at St Mary Magdalene’s Church and numerous questions from the floor were directed to Bishop Keith. In this 500th anniversary year of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation in 1517 it was not surprising that a question about the Reformation was raised – what it meant, how it would be remembered/celebrated and what lessons could be learned from it in relation to some of the issues currently threatening to divide the church – especially of course the questions relating to human sexuality.
Overall it was an interesting and thought provoking evening, and people were I think genuinely pleased that the Bishop was prepared to be “subjected” to such wide ranging and challenging questions, both from the parishes and then from the floor. Again and again Bishop Keith returned to the themes of shepherding the people, being faithful to the apostolic teaching and proclaiming afresh the gospel in each generation. In an extremely interesting analogy he referred to the success of the Reformation as being in part due to “new technology” in the 16th Century – printing – and was able to relate that to the questions about the use of “new technology” in the 21st Century – information technology and social media, including of course the use of twitter and facebook. In this respect it is very relevant that the growth in parts of the Anglican Communion worldwide – especially in parts of South East Asia – is attributed very much to the use by church leaders and the laity of social media (it’s not just US Presidents and celebrities who are at it!).
With the appointment last year of an extremely dynamic Director of Mission within the Diocese, it is hoped that the whole question of mission, evangelism and outreach will be very much a part of the agendas of all PCCs within the Diocese, including Great Budworth, and within this Deanery it is hoped to hold a Deanery morning focussing on Mission sometime in the spring. The use of social media, including twitter and facebook (see references to this elsewhere in this magazine) will be very much on the agenda!
Jesus invited his would be followers to “come and see” – and this remains the best possible mission initiative for churches and individual Christians – with the added help of information technology and social media it makes for powerful mission – just not as some of us luddites know it!
May God bless each one of us in this coming month.
The Revd Alec Brown.