The deanery of Malvern and Upton is at the south of our diocese – alongside the towns of Malvern (which itself includes several distinct communities) and Upton, it also encompasses rural parishes from the outskirts of Worcester to the edge of Gloucestershire.
The Revd Mark Badger, Vicar of Kempsey, Severn Stoke and Norton is the Area Dean with Lay Chair, Maria Toman, Deanery Secretary, Sarah Kelsey, Treasurer Derek Valentine, Sarah Maxfield-Phillips and the Revd Phillip Johnson making up the Deanery Leadership Team.
“We were keen that the leadership team had a missional focus but represented a spectrum of different views as well as having a spread of age, gender and churchmanship,” said Mark. “We’ve got a good balance of people which I think represents the deanery as a whole. We don’t always agree but can generally come to a consensus! We’ve also left one space vacant so we can bring people in when we want a particular emphasis.”
Phillip Johnson has been leading on putting together a survey of all the churches, to gather information and evidence ahead of coming up with a deanery vision.
“We’ve had a very encouraging response rate,” said Maria. “The plan is to look at the results at our next deanery synod meeting in January and then we’ll have a leadership team away day. Coming up with a vision needs serious thinking – we are taking our time to do things and think that it’s wise to do that.”
The team have also been engaging with more informal consultation, meeting with different groups of people such as Readers and ALM Children’s workers to connect people in different parishes and listen to their views. The most recent deanery synod included a speaker from the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity on whole life discipleship which was open to all.
“Around 60 people attended and we had positive feedback. People came away feeling enthused about the deanery and there was a sense of expectancy. We are trying to do things differently, with Synod on a Saturday morning with some hospitality and a speaker that sparks debate. We’re also keen not to be just a talking shop, but want to put things into action,” said Mark.
There were three deanery prayer walks organised in late Spring and Summer, which were well attended. “The initial walk was led by Canon Owain Bell and that set the tone for the next two which were led by the Revd Stephen Sealy and Dr Michael Harper (LLM),” said Maria. “We had a theme for each and they included a mix of reflection, singing and poetry as well as prayer. I’ve been asked a few times now when the next one will be!”
“We want to encourage churches not to think of themselves in silos, but to really care about other churches in the deanery. So far there’s been a real willingness to look a how we can support each other,” said Mark. “There is a definite split in the deanery between rural and urban, but the new deanery has helped the rural bits of the old Malvern deanery to find similar colleagues in the more rural areas around Upton. We’re trying to find ways to connect up churches and may even think about whether our deanery name is the right one!”
The leadership team is now planning a deanery lent course based on Mark’s gospel, which they hope different parishes will join next year. They are also producing regular newsletters, with three editions in 2021.