Revitalisation: this is not a drill

Simon Martin

Bishop's Chaplain

As the Bishop’s Chaplain, Simon has a variety of clergy-focussed responsibilities, like pre & post ordination training.

Revitalisation: this is not a drill

Simon Martin

Bishop's Chaplain

As the Bishop’s Chaplain, Simon has a variety of clergy-focussed responsibilities, like pre & post ordination training.

Revitalisation: this is not a drill

a group of people discussing together outside

At a recent hui with clergy, I talked about how important it is to be up-front with the uncomfortable truth we face as a diocese. Our decline is happening at a rate that means we maybe have a handful of years of ministry left in our current resources… if we keep doing what we are currently doing as an Anglican diocese.

We can’t close our eyes in prayer and pretend that the reality of our decline goes away. Refusing to accept reality will not keep it from being true.

The central question to our work of revitalisation is: What do we need to do today to ensure that the Gospel is still being proclaimed loudly in all corners of the Nelson Diocese in 2030 and beyond? The plan for the rest of 2023 is to answer this question. The clarity of the answer depends on our listening to the Lord, to one another and to the communities in which we minister the Gospel. We started the plan with The Season of Discernment, by asking the Lord to kōrero mai anō – speak to us again – that we may know God’s good will for the diocese going forward.

This article contains an overview of the 2023 plan as well as some principles for navigating uncomfortable change.

Persisting through pain and uncertainty

'You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.' Admiral James Stockdale noticed how prisoners of war faired differently because they either lacked faith or refused to face the brutal realities. Those who did both simultaneously faired best.

Christ, who is the victor over death, remains the head of the Church. The enemy of God will not overcome it and hope beats strongly at the heart of our faith. But that doesn’t mean we can ignore the reality of the changes happening around us in society and to us as a Church.

This graph of Everett Rogers’ theory explains the how, why, and at what rate new ideas spread. We all respond to new things differently.

With the things we are passionate about we tend to stand on the left of the graph. With things that cause us worry, or which we perceive as a threatening change or potential loss, we tend to stand on the right. The call of leadership requires us to ‘step to the left', and probably stand further left than we are normally comfortable with.

No Plan B

The Revitalisation work we are doing is not a drill. This is not arbitrary or random work based on opinion. This is not a paper exercise. This is not something that is designed to get in the way of parish ministry. The Bishop and the Ministry Team at the diocesan office are resolutely focussed on this work. For them there is no plan B.

The plan for the rest of 2023 will result in a list of priorities that are discerned to be the most critical work we need to focus on. This list will be presented by the Bishop at Synod in September. The priorities must be the product of collaboration amongst us as we discern what the Lord is saying to this diocese and to our churches.

Changing discomfort

No one wants to be that person who stands up in front of a group of people who are anxious about the future and say, "It’s going to get worse before it gets better!" The one highlighting the problem can sometimes be misidentified as the cause of the problem. Ed Friedman points out how vital it is that we recognise what sabotage is: A systematic phenomenon, connected not to the actual issues of the organisation but rather to the shifts in emotional processes.

People aren’t afraid of change. They are afraid of pain and loss.

It is human nature to defend the status quo when under threat of pain, whether that threat is perceived or real. Add to that our ability to even prefer the discomfort we know over the unknown which we fear.

We have set an ambitious goal – to revitalise the diocese and grow the Anglican church in Te Tau Ihu, Top of the South. Let us never forget that it is not us who grow the Church, it is God who grows the Church. Our role is to position ourselves as disciples, apply ourselves as leaders and steward our churches as best we can, so God can do the best God can.

Your turn

Do you have ten minutes today to offer some thoughts on what you feel the Spirit is saying to the Church?

The Season of Discernment Portal is a simple survey with three questions. You can use the suggested topics to guide your answers or you can simply write what’s on your heart. It’s open to everyone and you are not restricted to contribute just once. We want to hear your voice as we seek to discern what God is saying to us as a whole diocese.

Visit the portal here.

Check out other articles in the

series below.

More articles in the

series are to come.

No items found.

We have invited these writers to share their experiences, ideas and opinions in the hope that these will provoke thought, challenge you to go deeper and inspire you to put your faith into action. These articles should not be taken as the official view of the Nelson Diocese on any particular matter.