The new Kidderminster and Stourport Deanery includes a mix of both rural and urban parishes, from churches on the border of Herefordshire on the West to the edge of Droitwich in the South-east. The deanery is also likely to become the home for the parishes of Churchill, Blakedown and Broome from the old Stourbridge deanery following consultation and pastoral reorganisation.
“Our first challenge is to get to know everyone and understand where the churches in the deanery are,” says Deanery Lay Chair, Clare Stockford. “There are challenges for both our urban and our rural churches. As a leadership team we want to recognise those challenges and respond to the bespoke needs of each setting while treating everyone equally.”
Clare is joined on the leadership team by Area Dean, Tim Williams, Deanery Secretary, Mark Hall and Treasurer, Paul Blackham. “Our leadership team is a good mix of people from both rural and urban churches as well as a balance of experienced people with contacts across the deanery and others who are newer in post,” continues Clare. “There’s also more space for others with a particular expertise to join us once we’ve decided what the deanery focus will be over the coming months and years.”
“Our first priority is definitely to plan events and activities which will unite our new deanery,” said Area Dean Tim. “Once we start to come together, we will be able to see the possibilities of what the deanery could do with God’s help and guidance.”
There was a deanery prayer service in Stourport during Thy Kingdom Come which enabled people to meet each other, and a flyer with information about the leadership team was handed out during the Archdeacon’s visitations. On the Sunday morning of the August bank holiday, the deanery came together for an outside service at Great Witley, where they raised £700 for the Wyre Forest Refugee group, and deanery synod in September will be another chance for people to start to get to know one another better.
“The plan is to have two synods a year – in person in the summer and over Zoom in Winter when people are more reluctant to travel to a meeting in the dark. Our first synod over Zoom had a brilliant 98% attendance!” Said Tim.
“Using technology is a real bonus in a geographically spread area,” agrees Clare. “We want to embrace that and use it to our advantage as a way of helping people connect together. We don’t have a magic wand as a deanery leadership team, but we can help to connect people from different churches.”
One plan is to develop a skills audit so churches know where they might be able to go for help with things like Eco Church, Messy Church etc. The leadership team also plans to link up different groups, such as ALMs, Readers and Treasurers so people get to know others with a similar ministry if they need a chat or want to ask advice.
“We hope that we will be able to develop a really supportive network, where we know and trust each other,” said Clare. “Where a church that has a particular need doesn’t feel frightened to ask for help. Our different churches represent lots of pieces of a jigsaw that builds up into an amazing picture and it is only by working together and valuing each and every worshipper, church and minister that we will grow and thrive as a deanery.”
“Lots of people are currently feeling very anxious and we want to help them to work out the best future for their church. We have to start thinking and planning and moving forward together as we develop a long-term vision for our deanery through the synod.” Said Tim.