Adam Clayton, incumbent of four rural parishes in North Shropshire, took part in a Thrive multi-parish benefice learning community that CPAS facilitated in partnership with Lichfield diocese.
This was one of three Thrive programmes to take place in the diocese in the last four years, involving 11 benefices and more than 50 leaders.
‘Thrive has really unlocked the door for us. It has given people energy, hope and power to get out there and have a go,’ said Adam.
‘Having the outside input put forward new ideas, strategies and ways of thinking, which we then took back to our parishes with confidence.
‘It empowered and energised people to think outside the box and see church as something which everyone can be involved in shaping.
‘We found the five sessions very useful, taking in turn the topics of journey, leadership, discipleship, mission and vision and creating an action plan for each.
‘The session on leadership opened people’s eyes to different forms of leadership, and the session on vision prompted us think about our vocation as a group of churches, reflecting on what God might be wanting us to do in our community.
‘One of the challenges of being dispersed over such a large geographic area is communication. During Thrive, we decided to launch a beneficewide pew sheet, giving “dates for your diary” for what was happening in each of the churches. This was such a simple change, yet one which has built connections between the parishes and has helped us all feel we are part of something bigger.
‘We are now in the process of coming up with a new name for our group of churches, to give us a stronger sense of identity and unity, so we can be a more effective Christian presence.
‘Coming together from our different churches to take part in Thrive enabled us to move forward as a whole benefice. We’re doing things we wouldn’t otherwise be doing, and there’s lots we’re still working on.
‘We’re seeing growth through “Food and Fellowship”, a Fresh Expression which takes place once a month, and through Messy Church, which moves around two of the parishes. We’d love to see this grow further so we can reach more primary school aged children and their families.
‘We’ve also been able to get to know new people through St Peter’s Walkers, a weekend walking group, and we’ve had more people getting involved in activities through the week such as prayer groups and pastoral visits.’