Moving on in Ministry: Discernment for Times of Transition and Change, edited by Tim Ling. Reviewed by Jane Charman
Moving on in Ministry: Discernment for Times of Transition and Change, edited by Tim Ling.
Church House Publishing, 2013, 169pp, ISBN 978-0- 7151-4329-2,£16.99.
Reviewed by Jane Charman
To say that the Church is in a time of transition and change almost feels like an understatement. Many people would want to choose still stronger words to describe what they are experiencing, such as upheaval, dislocation or bereavement. How do we handle not only change itself, but ourselves in the context of change, in such a way that we remain faithful and fruitful in ministry for the sake of the gospel? This book is likely to touch a chord with anyone who is involved in any way in the selection, formation, ongoing professional development and in service support of the Church’s ministers, as well as with ministers themselves and those among whom they serve.
Moving on in Ministry approaches its subject in an exploratory way, prompting reflection rather than attempting to provoke conclusions. Aside from a brief helpful introduction introducing the contributors and setting the scene it leaves the different chapters to speak for themselves, and the reader to make connections between them. All the contributors are experienced practitioners from different walks of the Church’s life. We hear from two with expertise in what makes people and organisations tick. Can models such as the ‘S’ curve reassure us that transitions are natural and healthy, leading under the right conditions to transformation and growth? How do clergy in particular define success and failure and how can they be helped to find fulfilment in an atypical organisation with a notoriously flat structure? Two other contributors bring insights around the subject of vocation. What is the Christian minister called to be and do in an undeniably post Christian context? How do we inhabit the role when it is no longer quite so clear what the role is? And how do we move from role to role in the course of a ministerial lifetime in a way that is responsive to the changing needs of the Church and society while at the same time remaining faithful to the original prompting which brought us into ministry?
Other contributors offer reflections from settings as varied as an inner city church, a school, a university and a cathedral. A Cathedral Dean explores how liturgy can be a vehicle for equipping God’s people to let go and move on in obedience to his call. A further three contributors, including the editor, have direct responsibilities for Continuing Ministerial Development, in the Dioceses of Birmingham, Guildford and nationally. The chapter on Affirmation and Accountability: Moving on through Ministerial Development Review (MDR) offers a particularly practical ‘take’ on the subject, as designing, maintaining and administering MDR schemes now takes up a significant slice of the Church’s time and resources. An important truth is recognised here: the Church is called to make Christ visible as much in its organisational as in its sacramental life. Finally the last chapter examines how the Early Church handled major change, a timely reminder that facing up to change has always been a part of what it means to follow Christ.
Perhaps the most negative thing about change is its capacity to induce panic in those who are experiencing it. There is an understandable desire to claw back the initiative which can result in planning which is too rigid or controlling. Moving on in Ministry helps us grasp that what’s needed in times of transition and change is not more strategy but better discernment. The Explorations series, of which it is a part, aims to provide the kind of spacious forum in which that discernment can unfold.
Moving on in Ministry is not just a book for clergy although it takes the clerical life as its primary focus. It offers practical wisdom for the whole Church as well as spiritual encouragement for all those seeking to live healthfully and hopefully in the eye of the kaleidoscope.
Revd Canon Jane Charman is Director of Learning for Discipleship and Ministry in the Diocese of Salisbury.
This review first appeared in MODEM Matters Issue 24 in October 2013.