For the first time I met someone today who had so far only been known online. Bishop-Elect Mhoira Lauer-Patterson, of the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church, came down from near York to meet me in the Hull Unitarian church. It was to say hello and chat, and given that we had already created a date - after Mhoira becomes a bishop - to take a service, the church seemed to be the best place to meet. It was informal, just my (and Mhoira's) initiative, but other people did know this was happening.
I had put on some music and we looked at that system, and after had a good chat.
Now I was quickly impressed, and thoughts already in my mind that would be needed to be floated wider were expressed. There were ideas like, perhaps, Mhoira might want to use the building to develop say her church, also develop relationships with other places, and for that take some of our services, have some joint events and so on. But the possibility of something more direct, still consistent with Mhoira as LCAC and a bishop, arose. So I thought this had legs and contacted one of the church officers at his home and he came down to hear some of what Mhoira had to say (again and some more).
As a congregational church, such a cross-denominational offering of paid ministry, but quite direct, needs not just democratic agreement but consent. So we three thought that the first thing was to bring the service forward to be taken, but then also, beforehand, that Mhoira could come along and view a service or two, just as a visitor, see the congregation, chat with people and introduce herself and her Church. Few will have heard of the LCAC. Then we could see what people think, either way. This would all be to maintain our own participatory church, whatever happens, with different people taking services, and doing jobs, and not not the kind of ministry where people end up leaning on ministers. In fact, coming across a denominational boundary, I doubt this could happen. Yet, also, this could provide pastoral ministry, focus, outreach, and change. As well as her background in training towards ministry and theological education, Mhoira has been an architect and it just so happened that plans could be viewed!
It may all come to nothing, depending on what people want or don't want, although we can still have services with open pulpits on occasions (that means offered to preachers outside the denomination).
Now the meeting came about, as far as this, because of my own 'watching brief' on the LCAC and its progress, and I would recommend to others at least considering the idea of reaching out like this. As a Bishop (soon), Mhoria will cover a large area for the LCAC, so there are others in Yorkshire, say, who might consider this possibility of drawing on ministerial resources. I'd say at least examine this, to take the risk and develop things perhaps in ways unusual only years back.
I know there are denominational sensitivities in matters like ministry, but as a 'Martineau man' I suggest an open, ecumenical and interfaith approach is possible here, of the people of small liberal groups who can work together, and lots of flexibility built in because of how things could work.
That's about as far as it goes for now. There is much to talk about, think about, to meet about and see what is possible.
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