By Gerald Ford
The Anglican church in South Wairarapa is taking down parish boundaries in a new joint approach to caring for its people.
At a meeting in Martinborough on Sunday led by the Anglican Bishop of Wellington, the Right Reverend Justin Duckworth, members of three parishes voted to explore a new joint leadership approach to ministry.
South Wairarapa is made of three parishes – Greytown, Carterton, and Featherston and Martinborough combined.
Rev May Croft, who retired this year as vicar of Featherston and Martinborough but remains archdeacon for the region, said the church “decided as three parishes it would be a better idea if we worked together … rather than the one vicar-one parish silo approach”.
As the leaders of the churches discussed the idea they decided “it had to be a movement of the people” Mrs Croft said.
Discussions also included the bishop, Rev Justin Duckworth, known for his dreadlocks and innovative approaches for reaching people.
“Mostly congregations are ageing and having difficulty attracting children and families,” Mrs Croft said.
After several months of discussions with congregations and vestries, “we’ve come up with a new model for structure and governance”.
The three areas will jointly be led by a team which is currently led by Mrs Croft, and will include representatives from the vestries of each parish.
Although each parish will still have a leader, the church employer will be the new governance group rather than the individual parishes, which enable sharing of resources such as for administration and youth.
On Sunday’s meeting most of the “well over 100 people” or so present, from all three parishes, voted for the structure change.
A few people in each parish voted against it, which is healthy,” Mrs Croft said, estimating the no votes at about 10.
She puts the support down to communication.
“We just did the groundwork. These days you have to be transparent with people.”
The change is timely as two of the three parishes are currently without a vicar, with the departure of Rev Jenny Chalmers churches from St Marks in Carterton and of Mrs Croft herself from South Wairarapa – a position currently filled by lay preacher Philippa Young.
This change was made possible by a change in church regulations, Mrs Croft said.
“It’s under an experimental mission canon venture. That is new. It’s only been in place for a year. It allows us to experiment with structure and governance.
“Having a team with them will mean quite a bit more support for leadership, because it can be a lonely job.”