Four years ago the Durham Street Methodist Parish faced challenges on all sides. Its church building was damaged beyond repair, its congregation worshiped in a space on the fringes of the city, and like many inner city churches it had seen its numbers attending decreasing for several years. One might call it a difficult situation. In the background was the Central South Island Synod strategic review looking at the future of Methodist congregations across Christchurch.
Part of the response was acceptance by the Synod that any approach needed to be grounded in an analysis of the situation and based on a theology appropriate to a city in change. So in partnership with the Parish Rev Dr. Mary Caygill was supported to undertake research about inner city ministry to provide a base for moving forward. From this came two outcomes. A strategic plan for the inner city Parish, and a concept of ministry out in the streets of the city. The “Streets” ministry draws some of its inspiration from the Ministry of Auckland’s “Splice” initiative led by John McDonald which over the past three years has operated in downtown Auckland.
So the concept of a Chaplain for the city is the dream. In fact what to call this ministry generated a great deal of discussion. Would this term encourage or discourage contact? Would those with whom the appointed person would interact understand it? We expect it’s own definition or title will evolve.
It is a Methodist initiative, not a ministry to only Methodists but rather a ministry in a wider interfaith context. It is a ministry imagined or envisaged as broad and inclusive.
In putting together the Job Description for StreeTs Ministry, some primary objectives were established. What was agreed was:
- A ministry of the Christchurch Central Methodist Parish created for the purpose of engaging with the inner city community of Christchurch in innovative and creative ways.
- An opportunity to explore new expressions of ministry and mission in the city.
- To work in partnership with the congregation of the Christchurch Central Methodist Parish (Durham St Methodist Church) to assist them in their ongoing engagement with the varying communities of the inner city in which the parish is based.
The detail of the position is more than this but we expect the role to evolve in response to needs and operate in a flexible way to bring Christian ministry to a wide range of residents and workers as well as visitors in the city by establishing contact with them in situations that they spend their time in. It will focus on hospitality and opportunities for conversation.
We envisage that the StreeTs Ministry role will become familiar to managers and entrepreneurs in the city, the decision makers, local community leaders and city customers as has been the situation in Auckland as networking and links with community groups lead to an understanding that the church and its faith are issues for study, exploration and conversation. And that the church is here, present in the city.