Reflecting on Mission Communities

Carlisle Diocese’s curates gathered together for a study day last week. We usually come together for two study days and one residential weekend each semester. The module we are working on at the moment is entitled ‘Leadership, collaboration and relationships’, this seems to lend itself to a deeper consideration of Mission Communities – How are they led? How do we really collaborate in their establishment and flourishing? How do we nurture relationships in order that they might flourish?

Of course no-one would claim to know all the answers, but Gary Cregeen – MC leader in Barrow-in Furness and Sarah Moore – President of the URC in Cumbria came along to help us ask the questions. Both talked about the value of collaboration, the need to develop long-term relationships of trust, the challenge of humble leadership.

Calling upon the ‘wisdom of the hive mind’ (asking on facebook forums), Sarah came up with a great definition of collaboration

“we generally believe we take better decisions together than any one person on their own might, and the job of the leader is to facilitate the joint coming together of good decision making, which can include bringing key ideas to the table that help shape that process

While hearing Sarah talk to us about leadership structures in the URC, we were challenged to consider how we, in the Church of England make good decisions. How do we balance issues of responsibility and authority? Of course we didn’t come to a definite answer to this, but did begin to realise how dependent we are upon managing relationships well. Sarah left us with the question, ‘Is it all too much?’ a question which is often unspoken.

Gary Cregeen followed Sarah and although there talks hadn’t been planned together, began by answering her question through talking about the opportunities for sharing God’s love among the people of Barrow which would not have been possible by individual churches. The pooling and sharing of resources has been encouraging discipleship and energising the whole community. One of our curates commented afterwards that Gary was, ‘clearly passionate and knowledgeable: makes it feel more possible’.

I’m left thinking about how important our story sharing is. Gary’s stories enabled us to see how things could be for us, how well might learn from those Mission Communities already working together to fulfil the God for All strategy. I was also reminded that we are not working together towards Mission Communities to make for ourselves bigger holy huddles, but to encourage one another in the sharing of the gospel Good news.

I’d like to close with the passage from Ephesians which Gary used, and which leads me to respond to Sarah’s question, ‘Is it all too much?’, When we work in the name of Jesus Christ and in the Power of the Spirit, then God will enable us to work together for his kingdom:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

(Ephesians 3:20&21)

Thanks to Gary Cregeen and Sarah Moore, and indeed to the curates for their participation and wisdom.


Rev’d Dr Allison Fenton

Vice-Principal, IME

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