There was a definite sense of optimism in the air as Synod was given video feedback on the progress of the three year Vision and Strategic Direction Plan for the Melbourne Diocese commissioned by the 2010 Synod to “make the Word of God fully known”.

The video, Achievements and Outcomes, reported that approximately 60 parishes had participated directly in the Vision and Strategic Directions, many of them beginning with a one day workshop for clergy and lay people. Thirty parishes had taken up the opportunity to join a Pilot Program, co-ordinated by Mr Ken Morgan, providing structured training and coaching for growth and mission. These parishes had experienced an average eight per cent growth in worship attendance by the end of last year. “Inspired”, “encouraged” and “empowered” were the words used by individual participants to describe the effect the program had had on them.

One-on-one coaching offered for clergy by the Pilot Program had been received enthusiastically, and there were now 14 trained coaches, who in turn were training others.

The Bishop Perry Institute for ministry and mission, formed as an online resource, had become the hub for training and coaching, developing 14 training modules for leaders and teams. It offers a website library of practical resources, and funds research into ministry projects. An e-journal with helpful articles on ministry topics is also being planned.

Archbishop Freier and the Diocesan Registrar, Mr Ken Spackman, spoke on the video of new property policies and initiatives aimed at better stewardship for mission. Hard decisions had been taken about the sale of some properties, resulting in proceeds of $8 million dollars to expand the investment corpus. Priorities had been adopted in regional property development – for example, in the parish of Cranbourne, which it was anticipated would be home to a population of 200,000 by 2030. With the co-operation of parishes, the Diocese was working to retain well-positioned sites. Currently, these were being leased out at maximum rentals and earning investment interest. Later, they would be used for ministry purposes such as curate accommodation.

The video, shown on the evening of Friday 18 October, covered what has been achieved to date. On the following day a Synod presentation looked towards the vision and directions for the Melbourne Diocese for the 2014-16 period.

Bishop Barbara Darling outlined a new Pilot Program, working with one archdeaconry to transform deaneries into communities of ministry and mission; with one school or parish community to strengthen a capacity for evangelism and faith formation, and with one deanery in a church planting project.

Bishop Philip Huggins spoke about fostering growth of Multicultural Ministry by ensuring the affirmation of cultural diversity across the diocese, and by building resources and opportunities and equipping leaders for ministry. Many migrants and refugees came to Australia with a vibrant, passionate faith and great spiritual depth, he said.

Bishop Paul White said the program of parish renewal would be extended through the learning from the 2011-13 Pilot Program and with the Bishop Perry Institute to continue enabling research, offering training and commending best practice.

Archbishop Freier stressed the need to foster a culture of hope, “by building people and communities in appreciation, optimism and resilience; nurturing them through pastoral and spiritual ministry and building reconciled relationships”.

Seeing God at work in some parts of the Church became a point of encouragement for others, he said, so that we could “expect the abundance of God’s blessing on all our endeavours.”

Four speakers then looked at enablers for the achievement of directives.

Mrs Penny Mulvey said in order to bring Vision and Directions to all parishes suitable material had to be provided to explain the vision and encourage participation. A communications strategy would be established to meet the needs of contemporary Australians through multiple platforms, including social media, and word of mouth. TMA and the website were vital tools in this strategy, she said.

Registrar Mr Ken Spackman spoke about growing the endowment of the diocese to support ministry and mission, firstly by being disciplined about spending on capital items, and secondly by stewarding the diocese’s wealth through the additions of capital from the sale of property no longer used for ministry purposes. 

Mission would be the diocese’s organising principle, Mr Ken Morgan said, with deaneries being revitalised as communities of mission and making ‘People in Ministry’ the central purpose of all structures.

Finally the Revd Helen Phillips, Vicar of St Dunstan’s Camberwell and an Examining Chaplain, spoke about theological education. The learnings of the Pilot Program and the theological education review would be used to shape the future, fostering better practice in clergy and lay leadership and promoting continuing professional learning and development. 

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