by Martyn Snow, Bishop of Leicester
Inspiring Everyday Faith is a way of highlighting why and what is important in Christian discipleship. In the past 20-30 years, we have not been terribly good at equipping people for living their Christian faith in the whole of their lives. The Church has tended to focus on its own life, or its own outreach projects, and forgotten that for most people the majority of their time is not spent involved in church projects – it’s spent in their workplaces, home, social. Equipping people for faith in those contexts must be core to what the Church is all about. I think there has been a change in that over time, but during this pandemic and lockdown – as in so many other areas – it has brought new questions into focus.
Nick and I have a running joke about who first coined the phrase Everyday Faith. All I can say is it has ‘made in Leicester’ stamped on it, and we use that as our strapline now! Using that language of everyday faith has certainly been very significant. My role as bishop is to hold people to account and for them to hold me to account in what we decide under God we are called to be and do. We use the following questions to help each of us in this discernment:
- How are you enabling others to grow in the depth of their discipleship?
- How are you growing in numbers of disciples?
- How are you growing in loving service, enabling others to grow in loving service?
We have found it important that such questions are adopted across the whole life of the diocese - for instance, in PCC away days as well as at Bishop’s Leadership Team meetings, and more regularly checking in on how we are working to those questions.
Some of the other ways we have tried to inspire everyday faith have included sending the seven shifts booklet to all clergy and lay ministers with invitations to have conversations within PCCs; making all gatherings open to clergy and laypeople; and putting lay ministers’ licensing services and commissionings on the same standing as ordination in the life of the diocese. When I license a new clergy person in a parish, we have a ritual of partnership in ministry, so looking very clearly at joining a team of ministers within that church context – and this team being focussed on enabling the everyday faith of the whole people of God. We’ve worked really hard to encourage lay chairs and area deans to set an example within their deaneries of working together. The lay chair of diocesan synod has done some particular work with deanery lay chairs to encourage them, to boost their confidence and to take initiative within the life of the deanery and to work in the service of everyday faith.
Recently, we’ve done an exercise of gathering stories about faith during lockdown. We’ve had a particularly prolonged lockdown in Leicester, as you may know. We’ve asked people right across our churches what they have been learning about faith in this particular context. Those stories have been fascinating. There has been a sense in which it has shifted the dial along the scale. People are asking - Is my Christian faith something I do with a particular group of people in a particular building at a particular moment in time,
through to Is my Christian faith something I do in the whole of life?
The dial has been shifted during this period to what actually faith is about! What I do in my own home, what I do when I’m online, talking with my friends. Increasingly people are realising that we should all take responsibility for this. It’s not something somebody else does for me – I need to be enabling the practices that enable my faith to grow in my own home and in my workplace. I think the dial has been shifted and we’re starting to see more about everyday faith.
Ultimately, the more we’ve talked about everyday faith, the more we’ve started to understand the key role that lay ministers play in enabling the whole people of God to live out their faith in the whole of life. In my own work, I’ve encountered numerous lay ministers lacking confidence, wondering what their role is and how they can best express their gifts within the body of Christ. As we’ve started to explore everyday faith, especially with the questions that are raised within the workplace, or within social networks, lay ministers have started to see that this is their
area of expertise. They’ve struggled with questions about how to live out faith in these contexts themselves, and therefore their ministry can be focused on how they enable others to grow in their faith in those contexts as well. I think there’s been an encouraging shift in that sense and a growth in that understanding of clergy and lay ministers working together to enable the whole people of God in their everyday faith.