On a sunny Saturday in April three of Horeb’s Elders plus myself attended a day for the URC in North Wales looking at future ministry and leadership across the region. At present the 14 URCs that make up the North Wales region are well served by ordained ministry in various guises. However, as the number of ministers that are available to all the churches of the URC reduces we know that our situation will almost inevitably change. So, whilst at the moment we have 4.5 URC ministers (the half is me!!), we know that in five years’ time this figure will be nearer 2 or 3! It goes without saying that this will present a challenge to all the churches, and the meeting we attended in Holywell was designed to introduce this matter to the 50 or so elders and ministers that were in attendance.
During the meeting we heard from Revd Stephen Best, a minister from Cardiff, who has been working with the 7 URCs in the city who are all currently without ordained Ministry of Word and Sacraments. The situation in Cardiff came about due to a combination of minsters retiring or moving on to other churches. But what might have been seen by some as a crisis for these churches in terms of the lack of leadership and ministry, others saw it as an opportunity for each church to review its life and mission and see how best the churches could work together and be resourced in the work that they hope to do. This has been a transitional process as the churches move from patterns of ministry that they are familiar with, in some cases single church pastorates, to a greater sharing of ordained and lay ministry across the city.
It is recognised that North Wales is not the same as Cardiff and there are significant differences between the city and our more rural context of town and village churches. However, the churches in North Wales do have a history of working together and discussion revealed the many gifts that we have within our churches, some of which we already share. How best we use these gifts for the wider benefit of our churches will take time and plenty of prayerful discussion. How best we use the dwindling resource that is ordained ministry of Word and Sacraments will take wisdom and the courage to learn to do things in a different way. We know that some difficult decisions lie ahead as our situation changes, but rather than burying our heads in the sand and doing nothing, we look to plan ahead for the future so that as local congregations of the URC we might continue to share in God’s mission in the communities where we are set. Watch this space.