I’m at the 2013 meeting of the Synod of NSW & ACT. During a table group discussion of an encouraging report from the Rural Ministry Unit someone from a rural Presbytery at my table told us that, over the last few decades, the number of ministers in placement had gone from 35 to 4. He’d worked it out by counting the number of manses in the Presbytery! Someone from another rural Presbytery added that his Presbytery had gone from 36 to 6 ministers in placement.
But it was a positive, forward looking conversation. Someone commented that the reduction in the number of ministers was just one dimension of moving from minister-centred to ministry-centred congregations. As I listened to the conversation it occurred to me that it was being experienced as a decline towards health.
The few ministers in these Presbyteries are still highly valued – and they wish more ministers would make themselves available for rural placements. But they’re valued for a different kind of ministry – one more focussed on supporting and resourcing the ministry of lay-led congregations.