After another episode of horror in France it seems bathetic to turn again to the minor machinations of the Church of England, but that was the last news I had. Wednesday was one of those days when I went straight from one thing to another, two of which were Deanery-related events, Chapter over lunch and Synod in the evening. The Deaneries, if you don’t know, form the middle range of the Church’s organisation, groupings of parishes which are themselves subdivisions of an Archdeaconry two or three of which make up a bishop’s diocese. We tell ourselves Deaneries are terribly important but a lot of the time they flap around a bit in search of a clear role. This week Chapter was etiolated indeed with only six of us there (it was quite fun actually) and Synod was barely better supported, fewer than twenty people from across quite a significant chunk of territory.
We had been charged with bringing to the meeting an example of ‘best practice’ from our parishes. I and our Deanery Synod rep, Hannah, were geared up to speak about our Mission Planning process, for want of anything better, because we thought we’d gone about that moderately well. As the various attendants around the room took their turns what we were increasingly getting was not a single example of ‘best practice’ doing a particular thing but a series of descriptions of wonderful things this or that parish had done to evangelise. Strangely attention passed over Hannah and myself completely, and in a sotto voce consultation we agreed we weren’t especially displeased to be omitted.
The trouble with ‘sharing’ what you’ve done in a particular place is that context is so important in what churches do; this or that event may work well in a particular place and not elsewhere, and without more detail as to why a church chose a course of action and how it assessed what it did this kind of thing is almost useless. As we saw, it also degenerates into the usual self-congratulatory middle-class Surreyness. And finally, I couldn’t help thinking, why aren’t all these wonderful initiatives filling our churches with folk? If it’s all this great, why isn’t it better?