Churches in Bermuda and England are working together to support the development of young ordinands for the island nation.
In his Bishop's Charge to Synod, the new Bishop of Bermuda, the Rt Revd Nicholas Dill, revealed that one potential ordinand - Jamaine Tucker - has already been sent to the UK to attend the Church of England's selection conference.
He said this is a trial "to see if this is a model we can use ourselves to streamline and provide clarity for the selection of our future priests."
"The aim in the medium term is to be growing younger and potential future leaders by offering a leadership training course open to all in the Anglican Church and intern-denominationally.
"In the longer term, we are reviewing the whole process of selection and training and are in active discussions with a substantial donor, the Bermuda College, Durham University UK and the Atlantic School of Theology in Canada bout how to offer training on the ground in Bermuda that would be recognised by theological colleagues and act as a first year certificate program open to those who are selected for training for ordained ministry and authorised lay ministry."
One reason behind this decision to work more closely with Communion Provinces on training local church leaders is a desire by the extra-Provincial diocese to "participate more in the life of the Anglican Communion".
It is also because Anglicanism has seen the biggest decline in people who called themselves Anglican - a 28% drop -compared to all other Christian traditions on Bermuda, which has a little over 64,000 inhabitants.
Bishop Dill said, "This is not cause for dismay - but must give rise to prayerful and urgent attention. Out there, anecdotally speaking - the Anglican Church is the church for my granny or my parents. In the community the legacy of the past and misinformation about the present has created a sense of mistrust among many. Other denominations have awoken sooner to this challenge and are happy to fill the void as it were.
"Some of the growth of other denominations, I believe, has been transfer growth but some has been due to the willingness to engage the community with the gospel in new ways."
The Bishop went on to challenge the members of the Anglican Church of Bermuda to be intentional in answer God's call to share his Good News.
"There are no spectators...or armchair Christians," he said. "There is no place for division and competition. There is no time for constantly harping back to the way things used to be, or allowing the hurts of the past to prevent us from moving forward together.
"Jesus, as we know from the book of the Revelation calls us to retain our first love, not to become lukewarm, nor to become too worldly, nor to become judgmental or ‘other worldly’ but to be urgent, careful, prayerful and ready."
The Diocese of Bermuda consists of approximately 186 islands, covering nine ecclesiastical parishes, each of which corresponds to the civil parish boundaries. Its structures emerged in 1975 from the Church of England with whom an association had existed since 1609. It is now called The Anglican Church of Bermuda. Though the Anglican Church of Bermuda is not part of a Province of the Anglican Church, it is part of the Anglican Communion through its Primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Read the full Bishop's Charge here:
Bishop's Charge to the Synod of the Anglican Church of Bermuda, 30th November 2013:
Introduction and Thanks
To my fellow Clergy, and my brothers and sisters and fellow servants of the Synod of the Anglican Church of Bermuda and to our visitors, it is a daunting and humbling thing for me to address you on the 6th month anniversary of my consecration as your Bishop and my first Synod AGM. But as I begin what is commonly known as the Bishop’s Charge, I want to start with saying how thankful I am to God and to each of you for your service and prayers to our Lord Jesus Christ and his Church over this last year, and also for the wonderful and unexpected expressions of support for me and my family. But first on the list of those I would wish to thank specifically is our Archdeacon Andrew Doughty who, in addition to his parish and Archidiaconal duties held steady the Anglican Church of Bermuda as Commissary from the retirement of Bishop Patrick until the 29th May. I would like us all to acknowledge his diligence, attention to detail, pastoral care, sacrifice and steady leadership throughout that period and the grace, prayers, advice and support he has demonstrated and offered then and since.
I would also like to thank the members of the Standing Committee who have guided and helped me and the Diocese adjust to this new place we are in, as well as the officers of the Synod. Many of the various Synod committees have been hard at work – particularly the Advisory Board for Ministry, the Youth and Children’s Committee and the Education and Evangelism Committee and behind the scenes keeping an eye on all of it has been the faithful and stalwart Doreen Blee. There is much to celebrate and to be thankful for over this last year. And I want to pause and do just that.
However, there is also time for sober reflection caused by the economic and socially changing times that we find ourselves in here in Bermuda and by the health of a Church which, numerically , has been in decline over these last years here and which has faced numerous struggles within the Anglican Communion worldwide. You will all be aware of the census figures for 2010 which reveal a decrease in public church allegiance to the Anglican Church during the previous 10 years by 28% - from 23% to 16% of the population and the corresponding rise of those who claim no religious affiliation increase by 34% from 14-19% of the population over the same period. Whilst the non denominational churches have experienced a rise in membership, all the mainline churches, with the exception of the Roman Catholics and Seventh Day Adventists have seen a decline –ours is numerically the biggest decline by far!
This is not cause for dismay – but must give rise to prayerful and urgent attention. Out there, anecdotally speaking – the Anglican Church is the church for my granny or my parents. In the community the legacy of the past and misinformation about the present has created a sense of mistrust amongst many. Other denominations have awoken sooner to this challenge and are happy to fill the void as it were. Some of the growth in other denominations, I believe, has been transfer growth but some has been due to the willingness to engage the community with the gospel in new ways.
The Way forward
At his recent visit to Bermuda, Rev. James Lawrence spoke of the changing religious landscape in the United Kingdom and quotes a tweeter who said: ‘We are losing a generation that wanted Church but not God, and gaining a generation that want God but not Church’. And I see that as I interact with people on the street. The hunger is there for meaning, for connection, for community, for hope but the expectation that the church can help satisfy that hunger is low. Dr. Alister McGrath recently spoke to the double truth not to lose heart and that we can make a difference still, but we need to do so intentionally.
And it is that intentionality that is really the focus of this charge this morning. One of the daunting things about being a Bishop is the charge placed up me not only to serve and care for the people of God, but also to proclaim the glorious gospel of Christ, so that the good news of salvation may be heard in every place - and thereby to promote the God’s mission throughout the world. Another quote is the reminder that it is not the Church of God that has a mission, but the God of mission who has a church.
The God we worship is Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – a community of love and service – whose trajectory of grace is always outwards. We too, as His people must be similarly that people of love and service whose trajectory of grace is always outward. Our inner life is very important, and needs to be carefully attended to, we need to remain faithful to Christ and his word in our own personal and corporate lives but always with an eye outward.
All of this comes down to the very nature and purpose of the church, the beloved Bride of Christ – to whom, with all the authority of earth and heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ gave a commission and charge to go out into the world to make disciples; to answer the two Lord’s prayers – that God’s kingdom may come on earth AS it is in heaven. It is his Kingdom we are invited to build and not ours. It is the reign of Christ the King that we promote. And the second prayer is to ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers into the harvest field. And why? Because the harvest is great, but the workers are few.
It is an interesting word study to reflect on all the descriptions given in the new testament of Christians – disciples, followers, adopted children of God, a Royal Priesthood a Holy Nation a People belonging to God, sons and daughters, friends, branches on the vine, beloved of God, in Christ, his workmanship, the body of Christ, brothers and sisters, a building – these speak of our precious identity, but other titles; soldiers, servants, Ambassadors, apostles, fellow workers, salt, light, peacemakers, disciple makers these speak of our active and conscious role in the service of Christ the King and are so often accompanied with the charge to proclaim, to preach, to set free, to encourage, to lay down one’s life, to take up the cross, to care for the widows and orphans, to forgive, to pray, to be joyful and generous in our giving and indeed to suffer – all for the glory of God. And there is urgency to it all. We stand on the eve of Advent, when we recall again the coming of our Lord, with the call to watch and be ready and to be about our Master’s bidding when he comes.
There are no spectators in these lists, or armchair Christians. There is no place for division and competition. There is no time for constantly harping back to the way things used to be, or allowing the hurts of the past to prevent us from moving forward together. Jesus, as we know from the book of the Revelation calls us to retain our first love, not to become lukewarm, nor to become too worldly, nor to become judgmental or ‘other worldly’ but to be urgent, careful, prayerful and ready - in the world but not of it – reaching the world, for the sake of the world and the glory of Christ, who said if you love me you will keep my commandments and who also said you will do greater things!
And what world are we called to reach? We live in an Island beset by economic problems – where young men ally themselves with gangs rather than churches; we live in an age of broken families and families under stress; we live in an ageing community with all the problems it brings; we live in times of recession, a world of spiraling debt and SAGE commissions; and under and unemployment; we live in a community where more and more are seeking spiritual direction anywhere but the church, people who would echo Mahatma Gandhi when he said ‘we would all be Christians if it wasn’t for the Christians’; we live in a world where the old ‘Christian’ values are replaced by anything goes; a time of moral confusion and of desperate measures where wisdom and restraint can too often be replaced by expediency.
Now is the time to arise, now is the day of salvation! The God we worship is a God of resurrection. The Spirit of God is still at work. God can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine in and through the Church. In our weakness his strength is proved. We need to wake up, not to become jaded and weary, but to step into the breach, to step out of the boat. We need God and we need each other and we need help.
Or am I the only one who feels this way?
What has already happened?
As I have said, there is much that God is already doing. But we need to seek God’s way forward and to have an active and flexible plan – for both the short term – quick wins, the medium term that may require preparation and the long term that will need the investment of time and resources.
There has already been some movement in the short term in the last six months, building on what went on before. Recession has cause many of our churches to be at the forefront of feeding programs that hope to meet people’s physical needs – but all are conscious that there are other needs we can fill. We have begun to explore how better to do this and to co-ordinate our efforts. We have had offers of help to fund these ministries and to draw together a data base to be more efficient and effective and to ask how to bring a spiritual feeding into the frame.
On reaching the young, as we will hear, the youth committee have begun a work in the schools and churches to envision and equip and re-establish trust and an Anglican presence. Some parishes have been welcomed into their schools – in Southampton, Pembroke and Smith’s. Others have growing youth services – in Sandys, Pembroke and the Cathedral and ministries that involve young people as in Devonshire. The summer camp and Children’s Ministry week were short term things that will feed into a medium term plan. But through this the aim is not just to reach children but to help families. In a dangerous world, where young people are exposed to so many influences – we need to make sure that our churches are havens of safety and love. This is a vital aspect of our ministry going forward.
On equipping ourselves for the common ministry we need to proactively develop our members in leading the church at every level lay and ordained. There is a very short term thing that is happening right now through the Advisory Board for ministry in the sending of one of the candidates, Mr. Jamaine Tucker, who is exploring a call to ordination, to participate in a selection conference run by the Church of England to see if this is a model we can use ourselves to streamline and provide clarity for the selection of our future priests. He leaves next week. But the aim in the medium term is to be growing younger and potential future leaders by offering a leadership training course open to all in the Anglican Church and inter-denominationally. Mrs Michelle Simmons and Rev. Ant Pettit have offered themselves to help facilitate this.
On the longer term we are reviewing the whole process of selection and training and are in active discussions with a substantial donor, the Bermuda College, Durham University UK and the Atlantic School of Theology in Canada about how to offer training on the ground in Bermuda that would be recognized by theological colleges and act as a first year certificate program open to those who are selected for training for ordained ministry and authorized lay ministry, or simply to expand their theological training – doing so in conjunction with other churches and denominations. This will also lead to the possibility of Bermudian candidates serving some or all of their curacy and formational training here in Bermuda as it seems apparent that to rely on other jurisdictions to do that for us s increasingly inappropriate.
This leads into the issue of Provincial Alignment. Although the group has yet to meet – in the medium to long term work will continue to explore whether, where and how we can participate more in the life of the Anglican Communion and be connected in a material way to another Province or Diocese. In the medium term this can happen through existing links – with the Diocese of Guyana; furthering discussions with the Church of England – where there is much good will – reaffirmed on a visit I made to the College of Bishops; tying in to organizations of the communion – like the Mother’s Union and the Anglican Communion Office. On the short term this will involve us during Lent in Diocesan wide studies on the Five Marks of Mission that are observed through the world wide Anglican communion. The 5 marks are:
-To proclaim the good news of the kingdom
-To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
-To respond to human need by loving service
-To seek to transform unjust structures of society
-To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
Re-connecting the community is also underway. We have been in contact through Rev. David Raths with the Bermuda Regiment – where he is chaplain. Discussions have been held with the Bermuda Sailors Home and the Mission to Seafarers through the good offices of Rev. David Addington to beef up and develop port chaplaincies. I have been in discussions with the Bermuda Police Service to offer support in the form of prayer and chaplaincy. Through the Bishop’s office we have been trying to be in the loop on social issues of gang violence. Our members sit on numerous boards and charities. There are community discussions coming on gaming. We have ourselves to hold a listening exercise on the debates concerning issues of human sexuality, gay marriage and the Church’s position and pastoral care on these issues - all of which we need to engage with in a Christ-like way.
These issues need to be earthed and owned by a common and shared vision, and a mutual support, love and sense of working together. The Nisbett Lectures this year were designed to focus our attention outward, to challenge us to think and to bring us together in fellowship. Over the week of events 500 or so people participated in the various sessions, one way or another. But we want to continue to build on that. On the 10th December we have the opportunity to hear a world expert on Biblical studies, Dr. Pete Williams speak on new evidences on the reliability of the Gospels. We are looking to a Diocesan day of worship and fellowship on Pentecost 2014.
There are many other longer term things needing attention – the proper care and use of our buildings, the financial planning to enable us to sustain growth going forward, a Constitution and legal system that is contemporary and robust enough to deal with the changes that are going to need to happen.
What needs to happen now?
Our strength will come as we seek God’s face and work these things out in our various parishes, within our own style and traditions, but doing so as part of a whole, where the Diocese provides unity and equipping and where the parish with all of its members is encouraged to serve. It is my hope that every parish will begin to work towards having its own Mission Action Plan. These were established by Bishop David Hope in the London Diocese in the mid 1990’s and have been continued there under Bishop Richard Chartres and throughout the Church of England and other parts of the communion -where parishes work out their own priorities for mission to their particular area are invited to think and try new things – under three headings: recruiting new believers, renewing the household of faith and rebuilding a broken world. This process involves a time of discernment, undertaking community and historic audits, working on parish profiles, doing envisioning exercises, looking at resources, finding out what each churches’ DNA is and how best to plan to implement change. At the Cathedral we are already on the road – and are having an away day on the 8th February to begin the process. In Paget they are already significantly down the road. The London experience is that through these plans and the resulting action London Diocese has seen significant growth and there are exciting new forms of church and expressions of Anglican Christianity popping up in many places, not least in Cathedral Churches.
My role in all of this as your Bishop is to listen, pray, encourage and work with you, and to model, if I can, the things I have spoken about. I am very conscious of my inexperience and need of God’s grace and your prayers and support. I am also cognizant of the promise I made prior to my consecration to visit the parishes to be known and to know you better. To that end my personal plan for the New Year, in addition to running an Alpha course under the banner of the Evangelism committee open to the Diocese, is to invite you to join me for a half day prior to Lent for a time of prayer, brainstorming and to introduce the Lent studies. Thereafter, to allow me to visit each parish at a meeting for a couple of hours with either Vestry and or membership and to be present in church on the following Sunday with you. The aim is not to check up on anyone or invade your space but to enable me to listen and pray with you and to talk about mission. (Prior to Christmas your parish should expect a call from me to set up the most convenient time and space)
But what I ask of all of us is to work together as a team, as Clergy, as a Synod between our parishes to fulfill those two Lord’s prayers - for the coming of the Kingdom and the sending of workers into the harvest field. And that we do so with appropriate love, respect and mutual concern and encouragement that adorns the gospel we proclaim, remembering always that we have been called and set apart as His Ambassadors, called to take up our cross, called to obedience to His word and to keep in step with His Spirit. None of this is really about us at all – but about Him. If we are to live and grow we will need a willingness to listen, to change, to develop, to take risks, even to fail and to throw ourselves more fully on God’s mercy and Grace; to remain on the vine, but also to lose ourselves for him as we share the good news. We sow, he gives the growth. He sends, we go, intentionally, purposefully, joyfully and thankfully.