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Who do we think we are? The origins of the Network - Shared Ministry Network

Since being elected to serve as the Chair of the Network Steering Group, I became aware of how little I knew of the history of the development of the Network. Our papers did not go back more than a few years and our origins seemed lost. Recently however I was passed some old papers which had belonged to a colleague, long immersed in local ministry locally. They contained a couple of reports from which I have been able to extract the following.

At the 1992 Annual General Meeting of the Edward King Institute, a suggestion was made that there should be a National Consultation on the Development of Local Ministry. This stemmed from the recognition that there were an increasing number of Local Ministry initiatives in dioceses but no national forum for the exchange and development of good practice.

The Institute is an independent body with the aims of studying issues affecting Christian Ministry and of participation in programmes which would help the development and work of the ministry in Christian congregations.

A planning group was set up and in due course a National Consultation on the Development of Local Ministry was held at High Leigh on 4-6 October 1994 to which all Dioceses were invited to send three representatives, one with an overview of developments at a diocesan level, one an ordained minister developing local ministry in a parish setting and one lay member from a different area from the ordained minister. It was attended by 77 people from 32 Dioceses. A report of proceedings was sent to all

Following this a Formal Lay Ministry Project Group was set up by General Synod to investigate developments in Lay Ministry nationally and a Formal Lay Ministry National Consultation was held at Swanwick in October 1995.

These appear to be the earliest records of what lead to the development of the Local Ministry Network and its annual Consultation (now Conference)

Although not wishing to dwell on history, it seems important to know where we have come from in order to assess our progress and to learn. Interestingly many of the questions being asked at those early meetings are just as relevant today. I do not think this means we have made no progress but rather it is confirmation that they were asking the right questions and that we need to answer them again in the context of today.

I should be delighted to hear more from anyone who has more information or can fill in the gaps! It would all help us to plan better for the future.

Dr Adrian Ball
Chair of Network Steering Group