Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to questions we're often asked about St John's

Click on any of the questions listed to find the answer ...

1. What does 'MLT' stand for?
2. How many people are members of the MLT?
3. How does the MLT get appointed?
4. How do you prevent people getting their feelings hurt in the appointment process?
5. How do you avoid the MLT becoming an embedded clique?
6. What's a Vestry?
7. So who's in charge if there's no Rector?
8. But who's in charge of the MLT?
9. Yes, but who's in charge when the MLT cannot agree and a decision has to be taken?
10. Who presides and preaches at the big occasions like Christmas, Easter and Harvest?
11. Do you wear robes at services?
12. What's SEC?

 

1. What does 'MLT' stand for?

'Ministry Leadership Team' - the team of lay and ordained members of St John's who are responsible for leading and supporting the ministry of all the members of our church.
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2. How many people are members of the MLT?

At the moment the team has seven members, but there's nothing pre-determined or sacrosanct about that number - it depends on who the Vestry invites to be on the team (and who accepts the invitation).
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3. How does the MLT get appointed?

Through our 'calling-out' process. Every five years each member of the congregation is asked confidentially and anonymously to name the people they see as leaders and enablers of our life and mission. The Vestry appoints a trusted group of 'scrutineers' to look at the resulting list of names and to make a suggestion about who should be invited to make up the MLT. The Vestry considers the suggestion and decides who should be invited, and it's then up to the invitees to decide whether to accept or not. No-one's name is made public until all the invitees have responded, and only the names of those who accept the invitation are ever announced.
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4. How do you prevent people getting their feelings hurt in the appointment process?

It's not possible absolutely to prevent hurt feelings! If someone thinks he or she ought to be a member of the MLT but the members of the congregation don't see him or her as a leader, or the Vestry feels he or she should not be included in the invitation, there's no way of avoiding that person's feeling disappointed. But the calling out process (see question 3) is designed to minimise this sort of outcome while giving every member of St John's a voice in the appointment of the team. It's not an election and canvassing is not allowed. The decisions are made by the Vestry, which is constitutionally responsible to the Bishop for life at St John's. And the members of the MLT know from the outset that their covenanted term of office is five years, after which they will all stand down so that a new calling-out can take place.
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5. How do you avoid the MLT becoming an embedded clique?

By limiting its term of office to five years, after which its members must stand down so that a new calling-out can take place. The Vestry can ask members of a previous team to serve again if appropriate, but there is no expectation that team members will necessarily continue from one team to the next.
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6. What's a Vestry?

It's the governing body of a local episcopal church, comprising both licensed clergy and lay people elected by the congregation. It's equivalent to the Parochial Church Council in a Church of England parish, or to the Kirk Session in the Church of Scotland. The word properly refers to a room in the church building where robes and communion vessels, &c, are kept, and where those leading the worship get ready for the service. The governing body traditionally held its meetings in this room, so it came to be known as 'the Vestry' by association.
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7. So who's in charge if there's no Rector?

It all depends on what you mean by 'in charge'. The Vestry has the same role alongside a Ministry Leadership Team as it would have with a traditional Rector: it's responsible for the church's finances, fabric, plant and equipment; for decisions about the pattern of services, the mission plan, the appointment of those who lead the ministry, and the delegation of responsibility for the various aspects of the life of St John's. The MLT reports to the Vestry: in that sense the Vestry is 'in charge'. But the role of the MLT, as delegated by the Vestry, is to form and share vision, to ensure that the faith and discipleship of all the members is nourished and sustained, to see that our worship is fitting and appropriate, that pastoral care is available to all who need it, that we are fully engaged in the mission of Christ, and to encourage the ministries of each member of St John's in line with their gifts. So the MLT is often in the position of making suggestions to the Vestry about the direction that our common life should take.
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8. But who's in charge of the MLT?

Wrong question! The point about collaborative ministry is that it's non-hierarchical. No one person is 'in charge'. It's counter-cultural: a deliberate challenge to the cultural assumption that leadership structures depend on individuals who determine directions, rule on the outcome of disputes, and can be blamed and scapegoated when things go wrong. In practice the members of the MLT take it in turns to chair its meetings, and decisions are made by seeking consensus.
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9. Yes, but who's in charge when the MLT cannot agree and a decision has to be taken?

Our basic approach is to seek consensus, even if that means waiting a while before the way forward becomes clear. But the MLT isn't really responsible for the sort of decision-making envisaged by this question: that would be much more likely to fall under the remit of the Vestry. Given that the MLT reports to the Vestry anyway, if opinion within it was irreconcilably divided on an issue where an immediate decision was required, it would bring the arguments on the various sides to the Vestry, so that a decision could be made - if necessary, by a vote. But it may be that this question is really about what would happen in a situation of irretrievable breakdown within the team, or between the team and the Vestry or the congregation, where an outside intervention would be needed. In that case the Vestry would ask the Dean and the Bishop of the diocese to help find a way of resolution - which is, of course, what would happen in any other charge (parish) of the SEC in a situation of pastoral breakdown.
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10. Who presides and preaches at the big occasions like Christmas, Easter and Harvest?

David, our honorary priest, who used to be the Rector but is now retired, usually (but not always) presides at the main service for the major festivals. If he doesn't, another of our team of authorised lay sacramental ministers does so with the Reserved Sacrament. One of our team of authorised preachers, gives the sermon. The MLT agrees on who should preside and which of the preaching team should preach.
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11. Do you wear robes at services?

Lay sacramental ministers and servers wear an alb at the Eucharist. David, our honorary priest, wears alb and stole when he presides at the Eucharist (and adds a chasuble for special occasions), and choir habit (cassock and surplice, scarf and hood) to conduct non-sacramental worship. Worship leaders do not wear robes, though they sit at the front with the presiding minister. Preachers who are not also presiding sit in the congregation and dress like normal human beings!
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12. What's SEC?

The Scottish Episcopal Church (the Scottish bit of the worldwide Anglican Communion). It's not called the 'Church of Scotland' because that's the name of the legally established Presbyterian Church in Scotland. You can find out more about the SEC by following this link.
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