Sunday 13 October
Dear Holy Trinity Church,
Over the past few years God has called us to be a Resourcing Church and to serve people and churches in Leicester and across the nation. We have sent teams to plant and reinvigorate churches, we are a centre for training Diocesan ordinands and interns, we have hosted some significant conferences for the city of Leicester and New Wine, and in the past year we have developed our Worship Academy, training worship leaders from many other churches, and released Jitesh Patel to be Assistant Director of St Mellitus College, East Midlands. It has been an amazing privilege and has demanded faith and generosity as we have given away to others. We believe in the truth that in God’s kingdom it is more blessed to give than to receive.
And now I believe that we are being called to send and give again, because, whilst God has clearly called me to stay at Holy Trinity Leicester, I also believe he is leading me to step down from the responsibility of being Vicar in order to serve the wider church through some national ministries. The simplest way to explain this is that I will become part-time Associate Vicar and look after Holy Trinity’s church planting and external relationships, and Elaine Sutherland, our Associate Vicar, will become Vicar and will lead Holy Trinity. This will release me to serve the national church through my role as Head of Church Planting Development for New Wine and as Development Enabler for the College of Archbishops Evangelists, and it enables Elaine to step into her calling to lead Holy Trinity.
This has not been a quick decision and in April at the Annual Parochial Church Meeting I said that because of my wider roles we were in discussions with the Diocese about how to resource Holy Trinity’s leadership requirements. When I first sensed God leading me in this way I talked with Elaine and she spoke of God calling her to take more responsibility at Holy Trinity. And so we discovered that God had prepared us for this possibility. We then tested it with the Bishop, the Church Wardens and Senior Leadership Team at Holy Trinity, then the PCC and finally the Patrons, CPAS, who support the appointment of vicars. At each stage we received wise and helpful counsel, and at each stage people agreed with the sense that God seemed to be leading us in this way. My sabbatical was a way for Elaine to test her call to lead Holy Trinity and she did a great job and sensed God confirming this call. I felt very joyful returning to Holy Trinity at the end of the sabbatical but at the same time I also experienced God speaking to me about his wider call and giving me amazing opportunities to step into the ministry of establishing church planting hubs and raising up evangelists all over the country.
The final step in this process is to make this announcement which opens the way for Elaine to be formally interviewed on Thursday 31st October by the Archdeacon, a representative of the Patrons, and two representatives of Holy Trinity who were elected by the PCC; Claire Greaves and Helen Dyke. This will enable Elaine to present her sense of call to lead Holy Trinity and the vision that God has given her for the future and to have this tested by the appropriate representatives. And if all of this is approved Elaine and I will be licensed to our new roles at Holy Trinity on the evening of 21st January 2020.
I want to give a few reflections on why I believe God is calling us to make this leadership transition.
- God is calling Elaine to lead Holy Trinity– we need a different leader for the next stage of our life as a church.
- God wants us to continue in the same direction. This transition enables new leadership to be introduced but maintains the vision and values that we share together– the recruitment of Vicars to churches within the Church of England, particularly larger Resourcing Churches, is not straightforward and this proposal brings protection to Holy Trinity through the continuity it achieves.
- God wants to resource Holy Trinity – Elaine stepping up into the role of Vicar will enable Holy Trinity to appoint an Associate Vicar to fill her position and Elaine will be able to give full-time leadership to Holy Trinity. For some time, because of my wider responsibilities, I have not been able to give Holy Trinity the time and leadership it deserves and Elaine has taken on a lot of responsibility while continuing to have responsibility for the discipleship and evangelism ministries of Alpha and the Mission Shaped Communities.
- This is another expression of the role within the nation that God is calling Holy Trinity to. I am being sent from you and will carry with me all that God is doing here, and I need Holy Trinity to ground and support me in what God has called me to do. So I will continue to preach and be part of the Senior Leadership Team and lead the ongoing church planting and external ministry of Holy Trinity.
In making this announcement there is a great sadness for me as I love you all and it has been a joy to be vicar of Holy Trinity and one of the greatest privileges of my life. If you feel at all sad or unsettled then this is natural, and if you would like to know more about the process that has led us to this announcement, feel free to talk with Elaine or me or a member of the PCC. But I am keen that any sadness or uncertainty about my announcement does not detract from the positive sense of God calling Elaine to this role. This is a significant development for us as a church, and for Elaine and me individually, and so I ask for your prayers – for wisdom, guidance, protection and unity.
Yours in Christ Jesus