Rochford Deanery Vision
Contained within approximately 70 square miles, Rochford Deanery, in the Bradwell Episcopal Area, covers an area that is predominantly rural in character, with miles of unspoilt coastline and attractive countryside. Located 14 miles from the M25, the Deanery offers an enviable transport network, with easy access to Europe and beyond! London Southend Airport located adjacent to the boundary of neighbouring Southend-on-Sea, with a runway extension under construction and a new passenger terminal, visitor centre and railway station, delivers excellent services for London and Southend. The journey time by train to the main 2012 Olympic Site in Stratford is 45 minutes away, also providing easy access to London.
The main urban centres, the historic towns of Rochford and Rayleigh, are well served with shops and amenities, linking easily with the outlying towns and villages, which offer semi-rural and rural living. Included in the Deanery are the historic Hockley Woods (the remains of a royal forest), the island of Foulness, internationally famous as a haven for wildlife, and the Roach Valley Conservation Zone. The Deanery also has a large number of listed buildings, including Rochford Hall, one time home of the Boleyn family and The Old House in South Street, Rochford, built in 1270. Rayleigh contains the site of a Norman castle and Rayleigh Windmill, built in 1798.
With over 82,000 residents in the Deanery there are eighteen churches scattered over this large geographical area, with parish populations ranging from 700 to 35,000! The East of England plan dictates an increase in housing in the Rochford Deanery of 1450 units by 2015, the population growth having an impact on the Deanery. With the expansion of London Southend Airport it is anticipated that we will see an increase in passengers from 48,000 in 2008 to 740,000 by 2020, and possibly up to 1.97 million (as a result of the runway extension), leading to an even higher potential increase in housing and consequential population surge.
The churches and parishes are served currently by nine stipendiary priests, one of whom is ‘half time’ (2.5 days) in the parish of St Nicholas, Rawreth, and ‘half time’ (3.5 days) ‘Faith in Action’ Adviser’ for the Bradwell Area; also giving advice across the Diocese. The broad range of churchmanship in the Deanery reflects the diversity found within the Church of England as a whole. The biblical model that resonates most with all the parishes is that of ‘one body with many members’, as found in the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 12. Within each of our parishes the particular gifts brought by stipendiary clergy have an important role to play in the eyes of the laity.
However it is recognised that both the potential shortage of stipendiary clergy (highlighted in the on-going ‘deployment of ministry’ discussion) and the ability of some parishes to pay for stipendiary clergy, means that there needs to be a greater focus other forms of ministry (self-supporting
clergy, Readers and other lay ministry). When it comes to applying this model of ministry to parishes working together across the Deanery things become a
little more complicated, leading to interesting discussions and challenges alike, although there is a common agreement that there should be focus on
models of ministry for ‘growth’, as expressed in Mark’s gospel, chapter 6. It has been articulated that we are ministering in a culture where some people are only interested in the Christian faith ‘on their own terms’, with the Christian faith only being ‘a component’ within their lifestyle, rather than leading to a deeper relationship with God.
The Deanery Vision Statement is offered as an aspiration for the Deanery to embrace, alongside the ‘Five Marks of Mission’, which is proposed as a framework for the Vision to both function and develop:
the spiritual experience of Christians
and teaching alongside a growing community
Within the framework of the ‘Five Marks of Mission’ the agreed focus for the Deanery
1. To proclaim the good news of the Kingdom (Telling or Proclaiming)
- To form a Deanery team to share and co-ordinate good practice
2. To teach, baptise and nurture new believers (Teaching)
- To create a learning culture within the Deanery and to develop nurture groups
3. To respond to human need by loving service (Tending)
- To befriend and comfort the bereaved and isolated, and to work with families and children, establishing good youth work provision
4. To seek to transform unjust structures of society (Transforming)
- To ensure that links created between the Churches and local councils are known about and co-ordinated across the Deanery.
5. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and to sustain the life of the earth (Treasuring)
- To provide time and opportunity for Deanery discussion about moral and ethical issues, encouraging the widest possible use of fair trade produce.
This Vision has identified two immediate priorities, relating to the third mark, as Pastoral Care and Youth Work, both linked to the support of families. We are working on them both, with a number of ‘Messy Church’, Fresh Expressions, springing up, with a need for more people to
come forward to lead these aspects of mission.
The overriding challenge relates to the stipendiary clergy vacancies that exist in the Deanery at the present time, including the parishes of Rochford (with
Sutton and Shopland) and Stambridge, Rawreth, Hockley (where the Vicar and a large proportion of the congregation have left to join the Roman Catholic
Ordinariate), and within the next year, Hullbridge and Rettendon (where there will be a retirement).
However, challenges lead to opportunities. In light of the current and future vacancies, and responding to the deployment of ministry initiative (and conceivable changes to and rationalisation of parish boundaries), a potentially more radical approach is being taken in this process as the future shape of the
Deanery is being considered in order to respond to its Vision.
As part of this process an exciting new post is being developed (subject to a successful Mission Opportunity Fund application) for a ‘Mission Development Officer’ to work across the Deaneries of Rochford and Hadleigh; developing the work of the ‘Legacy’ Youth Work already established in Benfleet and Rayleigh, working with local community agencies and organisations on outreach projects and supporting churches across both Deaneries as they explore their response to mission and deployment of ministry.
Do visit our Deanery website for more information, and as a basis for your prayers. www.rochford-deanery.org.uk
The Revd Mike Lodge
Team Rector of Rayleigh and Rural Dean of Rochford