Transforming the communities of Essex & East London through Christ’s presence

Don’t close churches or merge parishes says the Bishop

4th Dec 2014

Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford, says there will be no need to close churches or merge parishes if ministry is done differently.

Declining clergy numbers is a continuing challenge. In the past the response has been to close churches and to amalgamate parishes spreading clergy more thinly.

But Bishop Stephen says we need to do ministry differently. And he has set out a vision for re-imagining ministry in a new video which you can watch here.

"We are facing declining stipendiary numbers over the next 10 or 20 years," explains  Bishop Stephen. "And we have been facing declining clergy numbers for the last 20 or 30 years."

"Often in the Church the way we've responded has been like a game of knockout whist: every time the cards are dealt there is one less in your hand. And so, many churches have been amalgamated; many clergy have been spread ever more thinly with more churches to look after. It has not been a terribly thought through or strategic response.

"As I look to the challenge of declining stipendiary clergy numbers there seem to me to be only two other options. One is we close churches. Two is we do ministry differently. I believe we need to do Ministry differently."

This new recipe involves deploying our existing stipendiary clergy differently, grouping churches together in informal or formal networks and creating a local ministry for each church through raising up new forms of ministry.