The Methodist Church - Leeds (North East) Circuit

Preacher Development

CLPD: A New Approach - that works!

by Catherine Frieze & Anne Vautrey

A version of this paper, edited almost beyond recognition, was published in Ichthus Vol 158/3, Autumn 2008

January 12th 2000 marked the beginning of a whole new phase of CLPD in the Leeds North East Circuit. What had begun as a routine Preachers’ Meeting concluded with a discussion about what was to become a new programme of workshops and reflection – and we had another job (as if we weren’t busy enough with three young children between us!).

Together with the Revd Dr George Lovell, a supernumerary presbyter, we volunteered to facilitate a programme. There had been a general agreement at the Preachers’ meeting that we needed more effective ways of training and supporting one another.

Organising separate sessions to cover topics suggested at the meeting would have seemed the obvious way to proceed, but as our facilitating group talked we came to the view that, first of all, what was needed was a shared understanding of some fundamentals about preaching. Phase 1 evolved as a twelve month programme of one hour long sessions held during the Preachers’ Meeting covering the topics: ‘Private and public dynamics in preaching’, ‘Helping congregations to pray’ and ‘The nature, attributes and functions of congregations’ ; and a study day on ‘Our Ministry: personal and collective vocations.’

In March 2001 the Preachers’ Meeting once again discussed the ongoing programme. Apart from the study day, all of the CLPD sessions had been held at routine Preachers’ Meetings. This had the obvious advantage of offering an ongoing development programme to everyone present. However, they were time-limited and very often that time was eroded due to other pressing business issues.

Following on from work on congregations it was decided to learn more about the individual, distinctive nature of the twelvecongregations in our circuit. We tackled this by local preachers, in pairs, arranging to visit a group of representatives from each congregation and listening to them. Those involved in the visits had a briefing meeting beforehand so a common approach would be taken, and then reported back to the preachers meeting so a fuller picture of the congregations we serve could be built up. Despite some misgivings it was felt to be a useful exercise and new things were learnt.

The other plank in our CLPD was the formation of self-programming groups, meeting together at their own convenience and reporting back to the Preachers’ Meeting each quarter. They could be long or short term groups. From the outset this captured the imagination of the Preachers who then met together according to personal interests and needs. A Reading Group was formed, meeting monthly to discuss everything from Anthony Trollope to Joanna Trollope –with a visit to one meeting by Clive Marsh to share in discussions of his book ‘Christianity in a Post- Atheist Age’. Some preachers formed a group which organised a Saturday morning workshop to learn about multi-media technology. Others organised a Circuit study day on St Luke’s Gospel.

A large number of agenda topics accumulated which were eventually formed to four developmental preaching projects about the praxis of preaching and not simply about theory or practice. Once again, these were in the form of self-programming groups attended by anyone interested in that particular issue. Six people formed a hermeneutics group; four looked at preaching on tricky social issues. Two were keen to explore preaching in a multi-cultural society and one group organised seven evening sessions to discuss topics ranging from the authority of scripture to concepts of God and styles of spirituality.

It seemed that this was a way of working which engaged people. Why was this? Firstly the preachers began to see that here was something that would work for them where other schemes had failed; it was tailored to the time they felt able to give to it, it was open to all and preachers were able to access it at different points. In addition study days were held attracting keynote speakers, including Professor Morna Hooker and the Revd Dr Neil Richardson, and invitations extended to neighbouring Circuits and ecumenical partners. As with all such projects there were difficulties and frustrations – but it has been worth it. Now, in 2008, other opportunities for learning and growing continue to present themselves. Presumably this is what CLPD is all about!

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