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SEARCH Colloquium stimulates discussion on Church’s future

What is the Spirit saying to the Church? And are we, while attempting to be faithful, actually standing in God’s way? These were among the probing questions asked at the SEARCH Colloquium – “Developing Ministry” – which took place in The Hub in Trinity College, Dublin, on Saturday March 30.

This year’s theme sparked huge interest with almost 100 participants coming from all parts of the island, from Derry and Donegal to West Cork and Dunmurry to Waterford and Youghal. The Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin were also in attendance during the morning.

The main speaker was Canon Dr David Hewlett, Principal of the Queen’s Foundation Theological College in Birmingham and one–time lecturer in the Church of Ireland Theological College.

In his keynote address, entitled ‘Radical Challenge and New Possibilities’, Canon Hewlett recognised the “seismic changes” that had taken place in Irish social attitudes over recent years, along with a sharp decline in the proportion of church attenders under the age of 50 in both England and Ireland. He asked if it was the case that churches in general had ceased to be good places to be, and what we should be doing about that.

He suggested that rather than expressing panic at the decline in a spate of missional activities, churches should consider whether what they were losing was what they ought to lose – inherited structures and authoritarian attitudes, for example. He also suggested they should ask if a certain death was not essential before there could be a resurrection. He wondered what was God’s preferred and promised future, and whether we could be open enough to reach it.

“We make vows at ordination – promises we probably can’t keep, except with the rider ‘with God’s help’. This is the main point. God is faithful and will help us do what we can’t hope to do without him. We are there to enable people to trust God,” Canon Hewlett said.

In panel sessions throughout the day there was much plain speaking and concern was expressed regarding isolation and anxiety among clergy. Participants cited the need for a less hierarchical concept of ordained ministry and for more flexible structures so as to encourage vocations and wider participation in the ministry of the Church.

Other topics explored during the day included: the path to effective ministry – vocation and training; deployment – the right person in the right place under the right conditions; and support, spirituality and self–care for clergy and lay ministers.

SEARCH is a Church of Ireland journal which aims to provide a mix of church and faith–related articles which stimulate discussion and fresh thinking in Ireland and beyond. You can find out more at http://searchjournal.ireland.anglican.org

Article by Lynn Glanville, Communications Officer for Dublin and Glendalough

SEARCH Colloquium stimulates discussion on Church's future
SEARCH Colloquium stimulates discussion on Church's future