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Touchstone examines three Local Ecumenical Projects around the country,
one in Taranaki and two in Canterbury.



Stratford churches seek stronger community of faith


By Corazon Miller

The Methodist church of St Stevens and the Holy Trinity Anglican Church are two neighbouring congregations in Stratford, Taranaki. They will unite in a Local Ecumenical Project, crossing denominational boundaries to strengthen each other and become closer spiritually.

Methodist minister Rev Clive Chandler and regional Anglican dean Rev Peter Barleyman have been working together with their congregations to make this a reality.

Over the past 18 months, the Methodist congregation has joined the Anglicans on the first Sunday of every month. From February 2009 the two congregations will permanently share in their sacramental practices and pastoral care visits.

All buildings belonging to the two parishes will be retained for joint usage. Worship is to take place at Holy Trinity while the Methodist buildings will be used for youth services.

The Anglican service structure will shape worship, though the priest at Holy Trinity, Rev Rajinash Singh, is Methodist trained and open to Methodist theology and traditions. The leaders of both congregations will be involved in parish management.

The decision to unite was made prior to the stationing of a new minister within the Methodist Church. As the shortage of ordained leaders became evident, the Methodists began to look for alternative solutions. They felt that the Anglican parish with its larger youth contingent would give them a renewed source to draw from; re-energising and revitalising their ministry.

Peter feels the initiative is one of the more exciting things happening in Stratford.

“What has impressed me most is the Methodist focused ministry initiative and its effort to grow the gospel into the new generation.”

He says uniting the congregations will be a time of gentle testing as everyone must endeavour to honour each others traditions and find their place within the ministry. “Changes can bring about challenges but it is delightful to be able to move beyond denomination to form a spiritually strengthened congregation,” Peter says.

Clive says he has felt the warmth of acceptance from the Anglican community. Both congregations have reacted with optimism to the amalgamation and have worked together with their leaders to ensure everything runs smoothly.

“The combined strengths and practices of both congregations will help to energise each other. It will lead to new discoveries and initiatives that will provide ways to reach out into local communities to develop the giftedness of God,” Peter says.

“Churches in general face difficulties in rural communities, therefore denominational parishes over the past century benefit from looking at new innovative ways of maintaining the gospel presence out in the community.”

A covenant service is to take place on September 21st in which the two congregations will express their intentions and make formal their pledge to work together and become one community.

Clive hopes that as time progresses both congregations will be fully united. “They will forget the division that once existed between them and be a single united congregation.”

The time ahead will prove to be challenging but full of hope as these two congregations move forward in their venture to cross their denominational boundaries and become a stronger community of faith.

minister Rev Clive Chandler and regional Anglican dean Rev Peter Barleyman have been working together with their congregations to make this a reality.

Over the past 18 months, the Methodist congregation has joined the Anglicans on the first Sunday of every month. From February 2009 the two congregations will permanently share in their sacramental practices and pastoral care visits.

All buildings belonging to the two parishes will be retained for joint usage. Worship is to take place at Holy Trinity while the Methodist buildings will be used for youth services.

The Anglican service structure will shape worship, though the priest at Holy Trinity, Rev Rajinash Singh, is Methodist trained and open to Methodist theology and traditions. The leaders of both congregations will be involved in parish management.

The decision to unite was made prior to the stationing of a new minister within the Methodist Church. As the shortage of ordained leaders became evident, the Methodists began to look for alternative solutions. They felt that the Anglican parish with its larger youth contingent would give them a renewed source to draw from; re-energising and revitalising their ministry.

Peter feels the initiative is one of the more exciting things happening in Stratford.

“What has impressed me most is the Methodist focused ministry initiative and its effort to grow the gospel into the new generation.”

He says uniting the congregations will be a time of gentle testing as everyone must endeavour to honour each others traditions and find their place within the ministry. “Changes can bring about challenges but it is delightful to be able to move beyond denomination to form a spiritually strengthened congregation,” Peter says.

Clive says he has felt the warmth of acceptance from the Anglican community. Both congregations have reacted with optimism to the amalgamation and have worked together with their leaders to ensure everything runs smoothly.

“The combined strengths and practices of both congregations will help to energise each other. It will lead to new discoveries and initiatives that will provide ways to reach out into local communities to develop the giftedness of God,” Peter says.

“Churches in general face difficulties in rural communities, therefore denominational parishes over the past century benefit from looking at new innovative ways of maintaining the gospel presence out in the community.”

A covenant service is to take place on September 21st in which the two congregations will express their intentions and make formal their pledge to work together and become one community.

Clive hopes that as time progresses both congregations will be fully united. “They will forget the division that once existed between them and be a single united congregation.”

The time ahead will prove to be challenging but full of hope as these two congregations move forward in their venture to cross their denominational boundaries and become a stronger community of faith.

One + one = three in Waimakariri

A novel regional approach to ministry is helping three central Canterbury parishes overcome the difficulties they face in providing full-time ministry.

The approach is novel not only because the three parishes will share two ministers but also because two of the parishes are Cooperating Ventures and the other is a Methodist Parish.

A proposal for future ministry in the Waimakariri district has been approved by the three parishes – Kaiapoi Co-Operating Parish, Oxford District Union Parish, and Rangiora Methodist Parish.

Under the proposal, Kaiapoi Co-Operating and Rangiora Methodist will each appoint full-time ministers as soon as possible. Oxford Union will contribute one quarter of the cost of each of them, which enable the appointments to be made. All three parishes will participate in the appointment processes.

Rev Norman West is currently on a one year supply appointment at Kaiapoi Uniting. He says though they will share the services of the two ministers, each of the parishes will continue to exist in its own right.

“They will not create a new cooperative venture. How exactly the relationship between the three parishes is still being worked out. Much of it will be determined as the two new appointments come to grips with the job.”

Norman says innovative approach has emerged as the three parishes realised they were struggling to meet the costs of full time ministry and a regional approach to mission and ministry could provide a solution.

“The parishes were prepared to cooperate in terms of spreading God’s word and meeting the needs of the community. An important part of the regional approach will be lay people. The ordained ministers will work to strengthen lay leadership teams. A joint lay worship team has been made up of people from the three parishes and they are currently training together in the Lead Worship course,” Norman says.

The two ministers will have six preaching places within the combined region. Oxford Union Parish has congregations in Oxford, Horrelville, and Cust while Rangiora Methodist has congregations in Rangiora and Woodend.

Norman says the Waimakariri district provides a number of opportunities as its demographics change. The area has seen the growth of life-style blocks and people from all three of the centres commute to Christchurch. Incomes are rising as a result.

“Kaiapoi was once a town based on the freezing works and woollen mills but now it an important commuter community and the new township of Pegasus is being built nearby. It provides opportunities for new mission initiatives.”

Norman says forming a Local Ecumenical Initiative will enable the the parishes to work cooperatively with the flexibility to adapt to their changing communities.

Destination North Avon for Shirley Methodists

When Shirley Methodist Church held its final service in August, it packed a suitcase full of objects that symbolise its long life of witness to Christ. The Christchurch congregation was established more than 140 years and ago and it had been on its New Brighton Road site for the past 90 years.

The address plastered on the side of the suitcase indicated where the Shirley Methodists will now call home: it was North Avon Presbyterian Church.

In August the two congregations signed a covenant agreement that formalises a relationship they have trialled since November 2007. Under the covenant they agree to worship together and combine their resources for mission in the community.

Shirley Methodist minister Rev David Bush explains that the North Avon property will be home to the combined congregation. Each congregation will contribute half the salary of a single full-time minister.

“The arrangement does not create a formal cooperating venture for a number of reasons. One is that Shirley Methodist is just one of the congregations in the Shirley-Richmond parish and the other congregation is not joining the combined congregation. Also it is possible that other congregations may want to become part of our shared relationship,” David says.

The covenant that created the Local Ecumenical Project specifies that the combined congregation will honour the two traditions of the partners and use them as a starting point for mission. Each congregation will appoint officers to a joint parish council and they will continue to take part in the life of the Presbyterian and Methodist churches.

David says obstacles impeding both congregations ways forward were the drivers for the partnership. Shirley Methodist could not afford to carry out the upgrades required to continue using its facility, whereas North Avon could no longer afford a full-time minister.

“North Avon approached us. They said we’ve got the buildings and you’ve got the minister. The leaders of the two congregations met several times to discuss how a combined congregation might work,” David says.

“Finally we decided the only way we would know if it would work is if we gave it a go. We had a three-month trial period during which we alternated worship between the two churches.

“At the end of it we felt compatible. It seemed to work very well, so we decided to bite the bullet and join together. In our experience it all seemed to flow together so easily that we are wondering where the problems are hiding.”

Shirley Methodist’s property is located on a prime spot across the road from the busy Palms Shopping Centre. In the past there have been discussions between the mall owners and the Christchurch City Council about creating a community centre on the site, which would include a worship space. If that comes to fruition the congregation could move back to their old site.

In the meantime, it is enjoying its new relationship with North Avon Presbyterian. The next steps are to come up with a name for the combined congregation and to recruit a new minister as David moves into his role as MCNZ general secretary.

He says the partnership was formed because both groups had a strong desire to work together and reach out to their community. It has given them new sense of optimism and opportunity.