The Rev Mark Brosnan has been taking part in the first CPAS Thrive learning community for leadership teams of multi-parish benefices. Mark is priest-in-charge of five parishes covering over 100 square miles of rural North Yorkshire surrounding the market town of Kirkbymoorside.
'Learning communities are all about growing together, so the first thing I did was invite other leaders from across the benefice to join me. There were six of us altogether: myself, a parish treasurer, three churchwardens and a former churchwarden.
'We met with other leadership teams of multiparish benefices in York diocese four times over two years, facilitated by CPAS to help us explore the themes of journey, leadership, discipleship and mission in relation to our churches.
'We saw it as a sort of 'think tank' for the benefice, and a great opportunity to learn from others ministering in a similar context, and receive input and support from CPAS staff and partners. A month after each gathering, we met as a team to reflect over supper on what we'd learnt, and take the next steps in putting it into action.
'The learning community approach is particularly appropriate for leaders ministering in rural, often quite isolated, churches. Being a leader or churchwarden in a remote moorland community can be a lonely experience, and it can be difficult to maintain a sense of togetherness over such a large area.
'Between the six us of, we represented four of the five parishes, which enabled us to both think together about our common identity and vision, and also consider God's call to each individual church. There has also been a ripple effect - when we put what we'd learned into practice, it wasn't just the six of us that felt more united, but the whole benefice!'
You can find out more about CPAS work in supporting Multi-Parish leadership here.