Shortly before his death, Jesus prayed that his disciples might be one as he and God were one. We take that prayer and call very seriously, and our vision is that we should be ‘a united body of Christians, living with love, giving in grace and moving for mission’.
The Watling Valley Ecumenical Partnership was established in April 1985. Today the Partnership (a Local Ecumenical Partnership or LEP) represents the traditions of four denominations: the Baptist, Methodist, and United Reformed churches, as well as the Church of England. The Partnership exists as one parish in Church of England terms, within the diocese of Oxford, and we are also within the Milton Keynes Methodist Circuit. We have five church buildings, but in fact we are, in many ways, a network of different sized ‘expressions’ of Christian community. Those expressions range from small but regular groups that meet in people’s homes, right up to the more traditional church congregations, and many things in between! You can find out more about our groups and activities on the pages of this website. Whatever your church/faith background (or if you have none so far) we will do our very best to make you feel welcome.
Bringing together a lot of different traditions and people can be a complex task! So we have some structures in place to oversee the leadership, management and governance of our Partnership. At the moment we are in transition to registering as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) which is required by law. We need to do this by March 2021, so there will be some slight tweaks to the way we structure ourselves over the coming months.
Our Partnership overall is governed by the Watling Valley Ecumenical Council (WVEC) with some other bodies also meeting occasionally to fulfil the legal requirements of our parent denominations. WVEC is steered by the Lay Chair, and as well as the Chair consists of a Secretary, Treasurer and two elected representatives from each of our five churches, as well as the ministers. When we move to being a CIO this body will be replaced by a Board of Trustees. This Council has the authority to make decisions affecting each and any of our constituent churches or groups, and has oversight of all financial activity, as well as ultimate responsibility for safeguarding. All groups within our Partnership are accountable to WVEC, and make regular reports on their activities. All registered members of our constituent churches are eligible to vote at the AGM, or to be elected as a representative on WVEC.
WVEC currently has three working groups based on our vision statement: Living with Love, Giving in Grace and Moving for Mission. Each of these working groups is chaired by a full-time minister, with members from amongst the WVEC reps. Each group is accountable to WVEC, but is responsible for the more detailed oversight of these aspects of our common life.
Each of our five churches has a Church Leadership Team (CLT) to oversee day to day management of the more local aspects of church life. The CLT consists of the Lead Minister for that church, the churchwardens, treasurer, secretary and two elected representatives. In addition the CLT can co-opt up to two further members on a rolling basis for their specialized knowledge or skills. The CLT has responsibility for the church building, local pastoral care/worship, local small groups relating to that church only, and the local church finances (although any major changes to the buildings, or any financial expenditure over £1500 must be referred to WVEC).
Other small groups which serve the whole Partnership eg Messy Church also have their own management responsibility for the detail of their day to day running, but ultimately all are accountable to WVEC.
Spiritual leadership is the primary responsibility of our ordained ministers. They are designated the ‘Lead Minister’ of one or more congregations/churches. They work alongside senior laypeople to make sure the spiritual needs of those within our boundaries are attended to. So this means not just those who attend our churches! Amongst many tasks, our ministers pray, teach, preach, celebrate the sacraments, minister to the sick, and officiate at weddings, funerals and baptisms. The Ministry Team as a whole currently consists of the ordained ministers and the churchwardens from each of the local churches, although this is open to review. The Ministry Team is led by the Team Leader, who is one of the ordained ministers, appointed by consensus. The Team Leader is responsible for the overall direction and integrity of spiritual leadership, as well as the wellbeing and development of colleagues. The Team Leader also acts as the main contact for any ‘outside’ communication or engagement on ministry matters, although each ordained minister is accountable to their own denomination and will have their own responsibilities within that framework.
Strategic leadership is shared between the ministers, the Ministry Team, and the laypeople of the partnership, at varying levels, ranging from small groups, to church congregations, to the overarching sense of direction of the whole organisation.