There is no doubt that mission, and particularly our Year of Mission 2015, will define the Diocese of Down and Dromore for the next two years and beyond. It was a proposal from the Diocesan Council for Mission and the unanimous endorsement of the Diocesan Synod in June 2012 which set the year 2015 apart. What that means in practice for the parishes and people of Down and Dromore is now coming into focus in 2014. What’s happening now?
Episcopal Visitation of the Diocese
From January to September 2014, Bishop Harold is visiting every parish in the diocese to hear about their plans for mission. Leaders are being invited to especially consider: Children (passing on the faith to a new generation); Community (how you perceive the needs and issue of your local community and how you are responding to them); and Church (how outsiders are impacted when they come among you in worship). All of this is being gathered and written up, enabling us to chart our decisions and goals and to encourage and be encouraged by one another.
The year 2014 is a year of continuous prayer throughout the diocese. It was launched in The Dock, Titanic, at midnight on 31 December 2013 and we continue to pass the baton throughout the diocese for every single minute of the year. Every parish is participating and finding the experience of setting up and manning a prayer room a real blessing. We are excited about the possibilities that a year of 24/7 prayer is opening up and the foundation being laid for a powerful work of God among us.
Church planting and Evangelism
Bishop Harold has tasked the Archdeacon of Down, The Ven David McClay, with developing ministry in the diocese, finding new young leaders, and enabling church planting. These are areas key to the next stage in our life and development.
At the Bible Week, the Bishop launched an exciting new appeal – ‘plant forHim’ (Down and Dromore Church Planting Fund) with an initial target of £100,000. This seed funding is being used to give high quality training to church planters and diocesan evangelists and to enable new church plants to be set up in the areas that the diocese has already identified. New plants have already begun in The Braniel and Moneyreagh and other locations will unfold in the future. Many gifted and passionate people have expressed interest in the training and we would love to see the rest of the seed funding come in quickly. We encourage you to contact Bishop Harold’s office if you would like to contribute.
Background to The Year of Mission 2015
When, in May 2013, Bishop Harold gathered together more than 800 Select Vestry members in four different venues, he presented 3 pictures of how he would like the diocese to be transformed in the run–up to and throughout 2015.
Firstly, he said that he wanted us to be “turned inside–out,” meaning that, together, we should face outwards, rather than being consumed by our own parochial needs and preoccupations. Secondly, he urged parishes to begin to see everything through a “missional filter” – questioning all our activities, our use of money, our worship and welcome. Thirdly, the Bishop issued a challenge to the diocese to move from plateau to growth and, indeed, to believe that growth was possible. He encouraged the select vestries to lead by example and to tend the ground, creating the right environment for growth. “Let’s embrace the Year of Mission,” he said, “and allow God to transform us so that we are missional all the time and become places of transformation for others.”
‘For Him, For you’
At the same meetings and again at the Diocesan Synod, we presented the two–part Mission 2015 logo, ‘For Him, For you’. The year of Mission is first and foremost ‘For Him’ – all to the glory of God – but also, ‘For you’ – for the people God has called us to serve. ‘For Him’ is the message in the parishes as we prepare during 2014 and is now highly visible on banners in church buildings and halls throughout the diocese.
At the Bishop’s Bible Week in August 2013, Bishop Harold took the opportunity to lay firm biblical foundations for mission, teaching from the Book of Acts on: The Preparation of Prayer, The Pouring Out of the Spirit at Pentecost, The Preaching of Penitence and The Practical Practice.
The diocese is also committed to equipping parishes for mission, acknowledging the diverse nature of our congregations and their settings. A series of workshops were held towards the end of October for clergy and their mission teams looking at areas for mission focus and how to do mission in different contexts.