Moving on and letting go

Monday, 11 April, 2011

Kerry Thorpe, Fresh Expressions Associate Missioner and founder of Harvest New Anglican Church, talks about the challenges of letting go of the fresh expression he birthed to take up a new post within the Canterbury Diocese... and the inspiration he has found in Abraham.

Duration: 7:40   | Download Download mp3


Interviewer: Kerry, congratulations on your new post within the Canterbury Diocese, could you tell us a little bit about the role that you're moving into and what that means in terms of the fresh expression of church that you've birthed and what you've got to leave behind?

Kerry Thorpe: Yes, of course. I've been appointed as the Canterbury Diocesan Mission and Growth Adviser, which is a brand new role within a whole new framework set up across the Diocese of Canterbury as part of the local church development team – and this is the role that is designed to take a lead on all matters to do with mission and growth across the whole diocese, not only in the fresh expressions but also across our traditional inherited parishes working for all of the… focussing all the mission and growth in all its various aspects. For me therefore that means to say that I do now have to hand over the leadership of Harvest New Anglican Church which is the work that we founded 13 years ago, 1998 we planted out, this was before Mission-shaped Church report or Fresh Expressions or any of those things, we have always thought of ourselves as one of those little projects which helped to pioneer the whole movement in a way. And so we've been massively committed to that and engaged in that work for the last number of years, and so this is a major challenge now obviously, both for us in moving on and for the leaders in Harvest in taking it on into its next phase.

Interviewer: In terms of other people who may find themselves in a similar position to you, is there… you know you're in a period of transition at the moment, but is there anything you've had to put in place with Harvest to make sure that it continues in a way that you would hope it to? Or have you had to let it go. How have you dealt with that change?

Kerry Thorpe: Yeah, it's a good question Rachel, and I have always been aware right from the start that this moment would come and so it's not sprung on us completely as a surprise, although this particular job and the creation of it was quite new and not something I was particularly looking for at the time, so right from the beginning we've had a very big investment in training our leaders and in releasing areas of leadership and ministry as we've gone along. Because we started off with a… very much a small group emphasis, part of that whole culture was about multiply leaders and giving people responsibility, so we've always looked to do that. And then part way through our whole journey, five years ago, I was appointed to a half-time role within the Canterbury Diocese in which I was working with and encouraging and supporting the fresh expressions in the diocese, that meant putting down half of what I was doing in Harvest, so I became the half-time leader rather than the full-time leader, so that was a big transition. Twelve months on from that with some of the finance that we'd freed up from me only going half-time, we were able in partnership with Church Army to bring on board a colleague, a Church Army Evangelist, Captain Andrew Chadwick, and Andrew has been working alongside me for the last four years. He shares is role in Harvest also as a mission enabler for the Deanery of Thanet so he's not full-time either but he has had something of a role and building relationships, so that provides a degree of continuity. And in addition to all of that there are other people who have been working with me, alongside me, in Harvest who are actually quite… I would say quite up for the challenge of seeing how they can continue to develop their leadership gifts and their role, take things on into the future. The final little piece of that jigsaw is that just over a year ago we were issued a Bishop's Mission Order and so under that new legislative framework we can now be treated by the diocese as if we were a parish in interregnum which means to say that the Archdeacon and the Area Dean will come alongside our wardens and work with them and help to effect a handover. So we've got a lot of parties engaged and involved in this, so it hasn't come upon us as a kind of a surprise and we're not unprepared for it, although we recognise it as a big challenge of course.

Interviewer: And in terms of… you know how has God helped you so far in this period of letting go, has there been anything in particular you've heard God say or anything that you've read that's helped you on this part of the journey?

Kerry Thorpe: That's… in a sense there's a personal strand to that of course, because the answers I've given so far are about how we've structured and how we've strategised and worked towards that. The personal thing of having to move on from a set of relationships that we've been working with for, in some cases, for the last eighteen years given that Harvest was planted out from the parish of Holy Trinity Margate, where I was the incumbent for five years before Harvest started, so some of these relationships are deeply deeply embedded in my own life journey. And so yeah, absolutely I've been listening to God and working through that and I think I would probably say that one source of insight into all this has just been watching and listening and learning from people who've had to do this before. In fact some of the fresh expressions projects that have come on stream since we started have already been through this transition period, I think a bit of research that was done a couple of years ago showed that our leadership here was probably one of the longest standing in any fresh expression anywhere in the country, so many people have had to face this challenge earlier than we have, and we've learnt some lessons just by watching what's happened there really and seeing the challenges of that. I also want to say at this point, obviously there's no guarantee that this is going to be a successful and a smooth handover, and we recognise that that challenge is still to come. And one of the things that I'm saying to our leaders very much is that this next phase of the journey is every bit as much of a challenge, an adventure of faith, as it was setting up in the first place. There's no way in which this is just kind of, you do this on the impetus of what we've done so far, this has to be seen as another brand new challenge and see whether people have really picked up that pioneering spirit and that sense of adventurous faith which helps them to move on from that. And in that respect I would say the single biggest resource story that we've used all the way through has been God's call of Abraham, we have always seen ourselves – I've kind of seen myself as it were covered by that little phrase in the letter to the Hebrews, you know which says about Abraham he didn't know where he was going. I'm kind of quite jokingly quite prepared to own that of me, because at various stages in this journey I really haven't known exactly where it's been heading, I've just had a real sense that God's call was on it, so we've had to trust him in that and set out, not entirely sure of the destination. And this will be a real test of to what extent that's been now embedded in the DNA of the whole of the life of Harvest. And obviously my hope and my prayer is that they'll continue that kind of Abrahamic journey of faith. You know, I don't know where it's going to go next, I'm certainly not preparing them for a particular outcome, it's not like I need to be determining the next phase, this is very much their journey and for them to be discerning what comes next and I'm just very excited for them about what that might look like.


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