On 21 January 2018 the Parish of Yate and the four parishes of the Fromeside Benefice signed a covenant to work together for the growth of God’s kingdom across the area. The covenant identified four key areas of collaboration:- prayer, external communications, youth ministry and becoming more missional. It also outlined an expectation that our collaboration would lead to a shift in culture that would see:
Members equipped for mission and released into God’s service
Seeds being sown that would lead to a growth in numbers, discipleship and leadership in both this and future generations
Missional Communities developing open relationships with our community that reflect the love and humility of Christ.
So what progress has been made so far towards achieving these aims?
Initially progress appeared slow as we prepared the detailed plan required. However, this fostered closer working relationships across the five parishes. There are now working groups for each of the four key areas plus an oversight group, with members drawn equally from Yate and Fromeside. Those groups have been working together to outwork the Mission Area Plan and results to date include:
36 young people attended a joint youth event in September 2018;
10 Small Missional Communities¹ have been set up;
We have held four joint prayer and reflection days and there is increased prayer activity such as the new Flowing River group;
Both benefices have new websites and our social media presence has grown;
There have been three community surveys to find out more about people’s needs and expectations;
More than fifty podcasts have been published on the two websites with interviews, theological discussions and field reports;
There is evidence of a greater understanding of and confidence in mission among some members of the churches as a result of Lent foci and teaching series.
There are more missional activities now than before;
18 young people completed a pilgrimage to Salisbury Cathedral in May and that has formed the basis of bringing our youth work together on a Sunday evening. More than 20 young people signed up for this term and are encouraging friends to join them;
Eight people from the two benefices completed the Growing Leaders Course – more than a third of all attendees from across the Deanery;
New residents in Ladden Garden Village are being welcomed with a pack that we have put together and are distributing with council and community support;
We are in the process of recruiting a full-time Youth Minister funded jointly by the two benefices and the Diocese;
Both benefices have seen a growth in attendance in 2018 and 2019 which is bucking the national trend. Interestingly, this growth has come in weekday services, which affirms the importance of the commitment made to innovation and creativity. In the current changing landscape for churches the Mission Area initiative is helping us to assess the changes and explore new ways of reaching people with the gospel.
In compiling this report I was surprised at how much had been achieved. We will celebrate this at a special service on Sunday 20 October at 6.30pm at St. Peter’s Church, Frampton Cotterell. Please come and be inspired for the next stage of the journey.
There is still much to do and we need to continue to make the most of the opportunities to reshape and equip the church for the future. Please pray for the on-going work of the Mission Area and consider joining one of the Missional Communities.
Rev Ian Wallace, Rector, Yate Parish