Covering Essex and East London, Chelmsford is one of the largest, most diverse and exciting dioceses in the Church of England. We are home to more than 3 million people representing almost all socio-economic, ethnic and faith groups and a fantastic variety of cultures and traditions.
We have enormous opportunities for mission and service and considerable challenges to face and resolve as we continue to deal with the long-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic and global challenges that have a direct impact on our parish churches and the communities we serve.
Within this context and following a period of listening and discernment that started when Bishop Guli became Bishop of Chelsmford in 2021, we have begun to set out our future direction of travel as a Diocese with a focus on Travelling Well Together.
- Our purpose is to love God and to love our neighbour; to worship faithfully and empowered by the Holy Spirit witness to the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ as we serve the extraordinarily diverse array of local communities in Essex and East London.
- Our approach is to enable and empower parishes and worshipping communities to discern how they are to be God’s people in their own very different local contexts and as part of one diocesan family.
- Underpinning our approach is an invitation to a way of being articulated by shared diocesan values which might shape how we travel together, support each other and provide mutual accountability.
Values to frame how we travel well together
Awareness of grace. God always provides the resources required for the mission of the church to continue. An awareness of grace engenders a spirit of thankfulness and enables us to notice what we have, rather than grieve for what we lack.
Valuing the small, the vulnerable and the marginal. Our calling is not to strain after worldly success, influence and power but to be a faithful and gentle presence and trust that God will use our conversations, encounters and all our efforts in ways we may never fully understand. Where there is growth we will rejoice and offer encouragement, whilst always remembering that God also treasures that which is small and fragile and we are invited to do the same.
Focusing outward. We are called always to look to the needs of those beyond the Church. When we fail to do this we risk becoming embroiled in our own internal divisions. Instead we are invited to join in God’s mission, embodied in the person of Jesus Christ, to share the good news, to serve our neighbours, and to work for greater justice, especially for those who are most oppressed and marginalised.
Sustaining healthy rhythms. We are invited to live life in all its fulness. This requires us to take personal responsibility, making time for leisure, recreation, prayer and service. It also requires us to support one another, sometimes carrying those who are struggling most.
Kindness, mutual respect, gentleness and humility. These are virtues which are often underestimated and undervalued. They flow out of Jesus’ command that we should love one another. To embody them we need to practice them intentionally, treating others as we would want to be treated ourselves and assuming the best of one another. This will enable us to develop greater trust.
Generously collaborative. A willingness to work well with others in a spirit of open honesty and transparency and with appropriate realism and accountability. To form partnerships that welcome challenge and help celebrate our differences, mindful of our need for one another. Together we are greater than the sum of our parts, together our narrow vision is broadened, together we make up the body of Christ.
Faithful, creative, courageous and open to the unexpected and surprising. There is a paradox in our faith which requires us to hold in tension the calling to be faithful to the traditions we have received, whilst at the same time open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit who continues to lead us into all truth.
An invitation to parishes
Travelling Well Together is not a top-down initiative with a ten step plan. It is, rather, an invitation to engage with an approach that seeks to empower local contexts to discern for themselves how they are to be faithful in discipleship, mission and ministry.
Parishes, deaneries and worshipping communities are invited to make use of the approach and consider how the values speak to and support their own local context.
A resource for discussion, reflection and prayer
To support discussion, reflection and prayer in your own parish, this resource explains Travelling Well Together and the shared diocesan values.
Intercessions based on the Travelling Well Together Values
These intercessions have been written by Bishop Guli to support prayer in parishes and worshipping communities.
The values in Travelling Well Together, will underpin how we take decisions more widely for the diocese including complex and difficult decisions. Our hope is that the values will also help decision making in more local contexts, providing a framework for conversations.
The approach will require a change in how parishes are supported by the diocesan office and area teams. In keeping with the diocesan values, our intention is to undertake a listening and engagement exercise during 2023 to understand from parishes and worshipping communities how we can develop our approach to providing support and resources.
Over the coming months we will continue this conversation in order to introduce and develop the approach.