I appreciate comments at my last posting, and I want to repeat and add a bit to my own comment there.
The problem with professional ministry with a denomination at this advanced stage of decline (with some renewal) is that it has found itself in a double bind. On the one hand there are churches that have struggled to finance a minister and then come to a point where the money that is available may as well go into other projects. The provision of services becomes much more collaborative, involving, and with a wide variety of inputs from within and without. But at the same time, there are churches with the money who will not advertise because there are not the candidates. A reason for lacking the candidates is the lack of vacancies.
If the choice of candidates is not there, a session of interviews for selection can be frustrating. If you pick the wrong person for your setting - and if you have a history of picking the wrong person - then you can hardly afford to make the same mistake again. Ministers can have negative impacts, indeed some go around effectively closing churches down. But it doesn't reflect well on the church either: who wants to go where a church has in effect removed ministers before they have helped destroy the place? It is not helped by the minister telling the fraternity about their rough time towards the end of their office; their account of events won't be the same as the church's.
Now most ministers are a plus (crumbs, what if they were not?), and also they have knowledge of the movement and a care for its condition. So if they are moving around different congregations and facilitating those congregations with advice, surely this is to be encouraged. I would have it as more systemic. Our ministers should be more like bishops, in that sense. In the past congregations were big enough and parish-minded enough to have a minister of status in just one congregation - the co-ordination came in their own meetings and through the college system.
In other words, the academies were buzzing with new ideas and in the Presbyterian-Unitarian strain these ideas were welcomed as part of the sphere of concern of the ministers. There was some remoteness, but plenty in terms of the preaching, pastoral and developing. There were many educational and welfare functions, all since gone with the welfare state (and quite right too).
If we had an educational model for ministers - a sort of Paulo Freire model suitable for our situations - then they would travel around even if there was a base.
Here's an odd situation. We have an actual Bishop-elect coming into the Unitarian scene. You can blame me, initially. She is now functioning in Leeds, Hull, Wakefield, chatted to the York minister after attending at Hull. Now with some specific training in terms of knowledge and finding out and more on ways and means, she could end up (with other ministers) actually bishoping in an actual, never mind just titled, sense. I don't think that is a bad thing, if it comes with strategic intentions. She is of course a bishop-elect in another group, but we still have plant, equipment and people on the ground. These ministers must be collegiate (Presbyterian, after all) but surely they should facilitate the folks in the plant with the equipment to use these in a better, more co-ordinated and more faithful way.
Also in such a pattern there is less likely to be a focused disaster in one place from one 'relied upon' person who turns out to be imcompetent.
What is wrong with this?
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