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Norfolk churches explore Growing Good

Church representatives who attended the Growing Good workshop were encouraged to embrace the five characteristics of growing churches.

Representatives of 21 churches from across Norfolk and eastern Suffolk gathered in Norwich for the Growing Good workshop. The day was organised by the Church Urban Fund (CUF) and Imagine Norfolk Together in order to share some of the research and resources which CUF have been involved in developing.

Polly Taylor (Project Manager for Growing Good at CUF) and the Revd Adam Edwards (deputy CEO of CUF) introduced the themes which emerged from the GRA:CE report, published in 2000 by Theos and CUF that explored the relationship between social action, growth and discipleship in the Church of England.

The research included interviews with over 350 people in nearly 70 churches in a range of contexts and identified five common themes shared by churches that are growing in faithfulness and fruitfulness: presence, perseverance, hospitality, adaptability and participation.

Each of these themes is explored in a session of the free Growing Good course which CUF have developed to help churches to reflect on and implement the key insights of the research.

Polly explained: “it’s for churches who want to get to know their community better, to grow in confidence, to grow in connections and to make a difference where they live. It’s a course for churches that are already engaged in social action and it will encourage those churches and affirm what they are doing, and it’s for churches who want to get to know each other and their communities better and to work together with their communities to make a difference locally.”

The Bishop of Lynn, the Rt Revd Jane Steen gave an introductory talk at the event, outlining six principles behind the church’s involvement in social action. Bishop Jane encouraged those present that “goals which are really worth having and obtaining are shared goals. Let’s have a goal in which this whole community flourishes, every child has a good education, there is opportunity for employment for everybody according to their needs and abilities…you can’t do that kind of fix instantly; there needs to be a long-term iterative conversation.”

Bishop Jane reminded that: “We do what we do because of the love of God who came to us in Jesus. And we do what we do guided by the Spirit and enabled by what we read in Scripture and enabled by the support of the wider Christian community and I don’t think we should hide away from that. And the consequence of that for me at least is that when our social theology and our social mission is rooted in prayer, at its best it is participatory, it is not paternalistic. Because we are not trying to do unto, we are trying to enable an invitation, just as, in the coming of Christ God gives us an invitation, and what we want to do is to empower and enable, not to maintain a dysfunctional system.”

The Bishop of Thetford was also present and facilitated discussions with the Revd Matthew Price from St Mary Magdalene Church, Gorleston and the Revd Canon Madeline Light from St Stephen’s Church, Norwich about how they have seen the themes of Growing Good at work in their own churches.

When asked how churches could respond to these ideas when they were struggling with resources and numbers of volunteers, Madeline spoke about creating a culture where there is an openness to the ideas and suggestions that are brought, rather than creating an abstract plan, concluding that “I think what’s important is seeing what you’ve got and not what you haven’t got.”

You can find out more about Growing Good by visiting the website: http://growing-good.org.uk or by emailing: growing-good@cuf.org.uk

Article courtesy of Anna Heydon.

Growing Good conference at St Luke's Church, Norwich