Monday, 31 October, 2011

Licensed as Pioneer Minister in Priorslee, Telford, Tim Carter outlines the launch of this Bishop's Mission Order in the Diocese of Lichfield.

Priorslee - village greenThere has been a lot of development around Telford in recent years. To the northeast of the town an area of around 1,800 houses have been built over the last 20 years. There is still land earmarked for development within this area with space for another approx. 500 houses. Within the area there are two primary schools, two small rows of shops, two doctor's surgeries and two pubs. The area shares a name with the original village of Priorslee, but there seems to be little feeling of it being continuous with it in any real sense.

The result is an affluent commuter area with many of the residents working in Wolverhampton and Birmingham because most of these houses are within a few minutes drive of the M54 junction.

This area has been identified as a mission priority over the last 5-10 years and various things tried along the way but then a strategic decision was taken to recruit someone to come and live on the estate and plant a church.

This BMO, the first in the diocese, is slightly unusual in that it doesn't cross any parish boundaries but the legislation is seen here as releasing the Pioneer Minister from expectations of involvement in inherited parochial ministry.

Priorslee - housesThe aim of the BMO is for a church to grow in this area, with the shape of that church (gathered or network or something else to be discerned) but the achievement of that aim feels like quite a long way away. The BMO mechanism allowed the diocese to create some space in order to explore that.

I am employed by the Diocesan Board of Finance, which provides administrative support and a governance framework in these early days of the ministry. My licence allows me to operate freely within a geographical area defined by the BMO and by invitation anywhere in the Diocese. The BMO is time limited with a review period and the licence is linked to the BMO so is valid as long as the BMO is in place.

Priorslee - roundaboutI am linked to what are known as two 'supporting' churches in the wider area – All Saints, Wellington and St Andrew's, Shifnal. We are still exploring exactly what that means though currently they are providing a place for my family to worship and be part of and be sustained by whilst, and until, the plant is able to sustain us. They are also providing some prayer support. This strategy has been implemented with the aim of guarding against the sense of isolation experienced by so many pioneers.

Priorslee - schoolI was licensed on September 6 and diocesan officers worked hard to get us into the house, purchased by the diocese on the estate, in time for my children to get into the local school for the start of term. We still need to work out how we get involved in this community and the school, for instance, is very open to us.

We're at very early stages and at the moment it's all about talking to people and having neighbours around for endless cups of tea!