Developing Faithful Ministers: A Theological and Practical Handbook, edited by Tim Ling & Lesley Bentley. Reviewed by Timothy Hewitt
Developing Faithful Ministers: A Theological and Practical Handbook, edited by Tim Ling & Lesley Bentley.
SCM Press, 2012, 224pp, ISBN 978-0-334-04383-6, £25.00.
Reviewed by Timothy Hewitt
Developing Faithful Ministers ‘aims to support the work of all those involved in supervision and training relationships within the Church’. I certainly think that the book fulfils its aim. However, before the eyes and minds of those clergy who are not training Incumbents or team leaders glaze over, thinking that this book is not for them, the additional value of this book lies in the way that it has much to say to parochial clergy generally in helping them reflect on the context of their ministries alongside the people whom they serve.
The book can support any minister. This is borne out by the fourteen chapters, the subjects of which are: Confidence in Calling; Making Friends; Priestly Formation; The Teacher – Learner Relationship; Asking Questions; Creating Critical Conversations; Time Wisdom; Enabling Ministry; Preaching for Today; Money; Law; Chairing Meetings; Continuing Professional Development; Learning Outcomes Exercises.
I felt that the book is timely, not only due to the current issue of developing in ministry, but because of the way it helped towards finding answers regarding various questions in my own mind about my own context as both a Parish Priest and CMD Officer. The range of topics demonstrates well that a number of facets must be viewed to enable faithful ministries to develop, and the book may help clergy re-evaluate some topics which they felt to be less important than others.
It was often the case that various chapters of the book complimented and informed each other in good and helpful ways: Sue Cross’ chapter of The Teacher – Learner Relationship dovetailed Neville Emslie’s chapter on Confidence in Calling. The book is full of very thought provoking sentiments and sentences which will help re-orientate the newly ordained and their training incumbents and any cleric to the calling of ministry. For example, as Neville Emslie helps us see, a curacy is about discovering the depths of the self and of depths of Christ. Sometimes, we make it into the shallower business of getting to know people and places quickly, which is altogether something different.
Paul Bayes’ chapter on Making Friends has a good evaluation of the changed status ministry brings with it, and Andrew Mayes’ chapter on Priestly Formation was an useful reminder of why we talk of formation in particular, and his useful meditation on what the Eucharist might mean for a worshipping community is a good example of material that can benefit any worshipping community as it seeks to deepen its spiritual life.
David Parrott’s chapter on Law was a very helpful description of who’s who in Church Law and why it exists.
Simon Baker’s chapter Preaching for Today contained a considerable amount of very useful detail, but I felt it lacked detail in the nuts and bolts of how to construct a sermon in terms of planning out the contents of a sermon.
Some parts of Neil Evans’ chapter on Chairing Meetings seemed to jar with each other slightly at times: On the one hand, undue pressure on people and the meeting itself by Any Other Business being discussed is helpfully addressed, but suggesting that a new idea be briefly mentioned at the end of one meeting ready for the next may leave the idea and people’s feelings about it unhelpfully up in the air for everyone. Spending 20 minutes of Bible Study of next Sunday’s Gospel Reading within a 2 hour meeting in order to inform 40 minute main item discussion will only work well, I suspect, if the two are directly related well to each other. All this said, the chapter will help chairs of PCC’s decide on what kind of meetings, and what dynamics in the meetings, they do and do not want to have.
As I read some chapters of the book, I hoped that some subjects could have been developed further, because of the way that they held my attention: Tim Ling’s excellent consideration of a professional ministry and professional development was an example. His contribution is very timely with various Churches developing professional standards for clergy.
A second volume developing various ideas initially explored in this volume would be something to which, I for one, would look forward. The price of £25.00 should not be something which should cause concern, but be seen as a small investment which will provide countless positive returns, not just for clergy, but more importantly still, for the people alongside whom they serve.
Revd Timothy Hewitt is Vicar of Ystalyfera and Continuing Ministerial Development Officer for the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, Church in Wales.
This review first appeared in MODEM Matters Issue 23 in April 2013.