Parishes from all over Ireland began the process of ‘Daring to Dream the Dream’ at the Church of Ireland Parish Development Conference on Saturday March 25. Organised by Church 21, the conference was facilitated by the Revd Ian Coffey and took place in the Emmaus Centre in Swords, Dublin.
After a welcome and introductions by the Bishop of Meath & Kildare, the Most Revd Pat Storey, participants viewed a video message from the Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke. He urged those taking part to recognise that they were living in a changed world and while there was great hope for the future, it was not based on a return to the ways of the past.
The Revd Ian Coffey is Director of Leadership Training at Moorlands College and an internationally renowned speaker. In his sessions he looked at rebuilding the Church and working out how to respond to change. Participants were encouraged to be realistic but also hopeful, to see the signs and be willing to take risks. The focus was on building the right spiritual base for personal renewal, seeing who we are as a Church and choosing to connect with that.
They talked about how people can be empowered to take the steps towards change but also how to face the challenge of change. The day’s deliberations were based on the story of Nehemiah as he and the returning exiles set about rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.
During the day participants heard from Calry Parish who embarked on the Church 21 programme seven years ago and shared their story. They also heard from Canon Alastair Graham who told the story of Mullingar Parish.
Ian and Paul Hoey of Church 21 introduced the 10 Stepping Stones of Parish Development. Church 21 believes that these stepping stones are the components that parishes need to do well in order to reach their full potential.
Parishes need not focus on all at once but instead are encouraged to take one step which suits their needs and work on it before progressing to another. Steps include: honest self–evaluation, building teams, discerning vision, enabling action, shaping culture, maximising communication, managing change, harnessing dissatisfaction, handling conflict and maintaining momentum. Information on all of these can be found on the Church 21 website: www.church21.ie
Tessa Marsden, Bishop Pat Storey, Revd Peter Jones, Revd Paul Hoey,
Revd Ian Coffey and Nicola Brown at the Church of Ireland Parish Development Conference.