Rector Brian and I were invited to the Diocese Working Group meeting on 29th October and to present to the Group. The Working Group has been charged by Bishop Donald with carrying out a review to look at “the environmental and social considerations of the option sale and devise a new process, perhaps a new committee, within the Diocesan Board of Finance (DBF), to ensure that such considerations are borne in mind when future land sales are being considered, as well as for the Titchmarsh/Thrapston glebe”. Bishop Donald has asked Bishop John Holbrook (Bishop of Brixworth and effectively assistant bishop of Peterborough) to lead the Working Group. Bishop John spent a significant part of his early career working in small rural churches in the Salisbury Diocese, so he is no stranger to rural communities and their concerns.
Brian and I joined the “Zoom” online meeting and presented, talking to the seven slides which are appended to this post – so not exactly “death by Powerpoint”! We re-ran the arguments contained in August’s formal Representation, coloured by the PCC’s more recent response to a letter from Gordon Steele, the Archdeacon of Oakham, received a few days before the Working Group meeting. We included a suggestion as to the criteria against which the Working Group could assess the proposed option sale. When talking to the five marks of Christian mission, and particularly the duty to care for Creation, Brian made a powerful impact on the clergy present (I’ve appended his speaking notes to that particular slide as well). Thrapston PCC also sent two delegates to the meeting and, whilst they did not present a slide deck, most if not all the issues they raised were common to both parishes. Speaking in unison can only have strengthened the case against the diocese’ intended industrial development.
I think our presentation served its purpose: the Working Group members who come from the DBF appeared somewhat subdued, asking few questions (and no difficult ones!). Those Group members not from the DBF (and particularly Bishop John) asked many more questions, some searching. I think our responses generally strengthened rather than weakened our case: as noted above, Brian was very effective. Having asked for a copy of our slides, the Working Group continued its discussions after we left the meeting and I understand it intends to meet again in three weeks’ time (on 19th November), so we will probably hear more after that meeting.
In the meantime we’re looking at ways to keep the issue in the public eye: it’s good to (gently) remind the diocese that the protest against and objection to the DBF’s proposal is not going to go away………..
Stephen Barber, Lay Chair Titchmarsh PCC