There's a (perhaps made up) Chinese saying, which could be seen as either a blessing or a curse "May you live in interesting times". For many church communities within the FACT group these are indeed interesting times, perhaps even uncertain times.
David Barge recently pointed out to me that with Graham taking up post Holy Trinity, the Anglican Deanery is at full strength clergy wise, and therefore all leadership roles in FACT churches/communities are also filled. This is the first time for some time that all clergy/leadership posts are filled and no-one is on sick leave or sabbatical. However we cannot get away from the fact that the numbers of people seeking to take on leadership/clergy roles in all churches has fallen significantly and measures are needing to be taken to adjust to this. Several denominations in the area are undergoing some sort of reorganisation and realignment.
The Frome Methodist Circuit is, as of this month. no more and Wesley and Portway are now part of the newly created and larger Somerset Mendip Circuit.
Leigh-on-Mendip, Postlebury and Mells Groups in the Anglican Church are working towards creating a Local Ministry Group together.
St Mary's Innox Hill and Christ Church are also starting out on the road towards closer working together and sharing one incumbent in the future.
Clifton Diocese is in the middle of a process of pastoral re-organisation which will in all probability mean that St Catharine's Frome and St Dominic's Mells, being joined in a much larger pastoral unit rather than being a parish on their own. This larger unit may be formed with other neighbouring parishes and ultimately could mean one priest serving all these churches together rather than each church having their own as at present.
None of these changes are easy. Those in charge of implementing decisions made elsewhere, often find themselves in an extremely difficult position. Clergy already in post can fear for their futures and possible reassignment. Members of congregations fear loss of identity and loss of that local feeling which they are used to when a larger unit is formed. There is fear about church closure and all that goes with that too. Add to this questions about where the remaining clergy will live and the worries attached to that about loss of status etc and you can see what a nightmare it is for all concerned, especially when many have gone through similar processes in the not too distant past.
However, it doesn't have to be like this, this can be a positive move forward if we keep an open mind. Amalgamations have happened in past all across our town. Look at the number of chapels which came together in the 20th Century. Some of these were for financial and numerical reasons. However, thankfully, some were through decisions to forget old differences and join together into "Super" denominations, such as URC and the Methodist Church which arose as the different branches of Methodism came together.
I believe that FACT can play a positive role in these new structures. There are concerns that increased size of "parish" and decreased personnel will mean extra work. If FACT can offer to co-ordinate work we can all do together, then there will be much less risk of burn out. Please be ready to offer to help FACT do this especially if you come from a Church not faced with these changes, and keep all of us at the centre of the discussions on new ways of working in your prayers.