Mortlake with East Sheen Team Ministry
works well, it's wonderful and liberating - if not it could be a straitjacket"
- that was how the Rev. Guli Francis-Dehqani described Team Ministry.
curate in the Mortlake with East Sheen
Team, the subject of this month's
'different' parish profile - 'different' because with the growth of team
ministries across the C of E, and at least one team in this diocese splitting
up, the aim was to try to discover what makes an apparently successful team
that we need to look at two factors - the place and the people.
starters, perhaps unlike many team ministries, Mortlake with East Sheen isn't a
manufactured alliance - it has always been one parish.
Mortlake, and the presence of a church there, is mentioned in the Domesday
Book, part of a manor held by the Archbishop of Canterbury stretching from
Putney to Wimbledon. There was an Archbishop's residence on the site now
occupied by the brewery and a church apparently stood in the grounds. In the
16th century, Henry VIII took over the manor and moved the church to its
present site, outside the grounds. Built in 1543, just nine years after the
break with Rome, St Mary's was probably one of the first churches built by the
newly independent Church of England. The church was put at the end of a path
(now Church Path) linking Mortlake to East Sheen where most of the wealthier
residents lived, surrounded by a Royal Park and market gardens and away from
the smell and damp of the river. Over the following centuries St Mary's has
been 'modernised' several times so that today only the tower remains of Henry's
17th and 18th centuries East Sheen grew. The park was enclosed and on the land
around large and impressive houses were built. 1840 saw the railway arrive and
even more houses and in 1860 St Mary's bit the bullet and planted a daughter
Church, was built with a £100 subsidy from Queen Victoria who had a
residence nearby at White Lodge. The royal patronage didn't stop the tower
falling down and having to be rebuilt just before the dedication! There was a
Royal Seat to be used should the Queen have called in - although there is no
record that she ever did!
continuing growth of East Sheen into the early 20th century led to a second
church plant. All Saints was consecrated in 1929 - with a further royal
connection. HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who then lived at the White
Lodge laid the foundation stone. All Saints looks much newer because it was
totally rebuilt in the 1960s following a major fire.
the parish is one of considerable contrasts - according to a set of 1999
statistics, pockets of poverty make Mortlake the most deprived ward in the
Borough of Richmond, whereas East Sheen is the least deprived, including, for
example, a six year difference in average life expectancy between the two
halves of this single parish.
barriers split the parish into 3 parts. The railway crosses east west, with
just three road crossings - two of which, even in the 21st century - are level
crossings with all the traffic snarl ups they bring! The South Circular Road
forms a second hurdle for anyone travelling north-south!
Sheen, south of the South Circular, is 'comfortable' middle-class, suburbia
with, from a survey done recently, a high proportion of 'professionals' -
accountants, solicitors etc. And today, even in Mortlake - whilst there are
Council blocks - many of the terraced streets are occupied by young
professionals, on their way 'up' (or should it be south), since people tend to
stay locally all their lives, often moving to East Sheen as their income grows!
that's 'the place' - now what about 'the Team'!
1974, the three churches (and for some years a mission church) were looked
after by the Rector and several curates from St Mary's. But as the East Sheen
congregations grew, clearly at some stage the question arose whether to form
separate parishes. Instead the decision was taken to form a Team Ministry,
which would enable the diocese to raise the status (and stipends) of the East
Sheen clergy to 'incumbent' level as Team Vicars, led by a Team Rector based at
the mother church, St Mary, Mortlake. However, none has the freehold as there
is no freehold. The Team Rector (legally the incumbent of the parish) and the
Team Vicars are licensed for seven years, with an option to renew for a further
Peggy, Paul, Guli & Edmund
today consists of four stipendiary clergy - the Team Rector, Peggy Jackson (St
Mary's), Team Vicars, Paul Kennington (All Saints) and Edmund Lee (Christ
Church) and curate Dr Gulnar (Guli) Francis-Dehquani. In addition there is a
Minister in Secular Employment (MSE) the Rev. Peter King, four Readers and a
SPA, who is currently training for the Ordained Local Ministry. There are also
a Reader and a SPA in training.
the clergy is based at a particular church, but each also has a parish wide
sector responsibility. The Readers and SPA are deployed across the three
churches. There is one Parochial Church Council, two Parish Wardens (legally
the churchwardens for the parish) and one budget. However each of the three
churches has its Consultative Council with some delegated powers and an
advisory role for the PCC and each elects two 'churchwardens' to take the day
to day role.
the four stipendiary clergy at one of their weekly meetings - they usually meet
for a couple of hours but four times a year they have an 'away-day'. I asked
two questions - 'how does Team Ministry work?' and 'does it work'?
Jackson was quite clear that "Team Ministry isn't about being an easy way to
reduce numbers of stipendiary clergy. The Team has four full timers for three
churches - although Guli may now go part-time when her maternity leave ends.
Nor did it mean stipendiary clergy trying to be 'all things to all
church has a specific parish priest with whom it can identify, but there is
always a familiar face to cover holidays, sickness etc. On the other hand the
team is able to use the particular talents, experience and interests of
individual members to specialise in sector ministries - such as adult education
and lay training, work with children and young people and mission - which are
carried out across the whole parish."
are also joint services on a regular basis - including a monthly parish evening
worship which rotates around the three churches, giving people from each church
the opportunity of experience a different kind of worship to their own.
Kennington told me "We have the best of both worlds. The three churches are
encouraged and enabled to lead independent lives. Each has developed its own
pattern and style of worship. Each has its own social and community life. But
in addition we all have responsibilities and opportunities as part of the
Lee agreed "I have quite a free hand when it comes to how Christ Church is run.
But being part of the team is enormously strengthening. Parish ministry can be
a very lonely job, but as part of a team you have back up and colleagues who
speak the same language."
able to draw on the resources of three churches also enables the parish to do
things on a 'larger scale' both within the parish and to help other parishes.
For example, Mortlake's SPA Olwen Williamson cropped up in an earlier Parish
Profile, because she helps out at Christ Church Brixton and now a number of
people help out with time and money on a regular basis. The parish also
supports the refugee centre in Twickenham. And it gives more than 24,000
a year to charities of one form or another.
"Collaborative ministry is a mindset" said Peggy "and it involves the
whole body of Christ. We meet regularly with those in lay ministry. The
churchwardens all meet together regularly. It enables us to address issues,
needs, opportunities and allocate our resources better than we could as
individual churches". So are there any drawbacks?
"Getting decisions can sometimes feel cumbersome, with any proposal having to
go through various layers before any decision is made" said Guli. This is
specially the case where there are competing demands from the three churches on
the single budget.
is also a tendency to limit individuality" said Edmund Lee. "Having to bear in
mind the styles of all the clergy in the team could feel restricting, if one of
our churches wanted to branch out into new worship forms, for example."
respect for each other's style and tradition is one of the keys to successful
team working - said Peggy.
are established variations in style and every team member fits in with the
style of the church he or she is visiting."
are fortunately no huge differences in style between the three - St Mary's is
perhaps the 'lowest' and All Saints the 'highest', but the gap isn't wide. And
there are no huge theological differences between the stipendiary clergy -
although the parish is living with the effects of the Act of Synod following
the ordination of women priests. The MSE, Peter King does not accept women
priests and it is a tribute to the good relations within the team that he is
encouraged to pursue his own area of responsibility and is able take part in
the ministry rota alongside Peggy Jackson - albeit that he will not receive
communion from her.
Team Ministry work in Mortlake with East Sheen?
of views from the pews prepared by Olwen Williamson as part of her OLM training
said 'Yes' and a quick 'vox-pop' at one of the three churches, one Sunday
morning seemed to be confirm that view - both among those involved in church
'management' or Parish-wide activities and just as importantly those who value
that church's continued individuality and 'independence'!
getting that balance right is the secret.
Witch Hazel from Worcester
In December St Mary's, Mortlake, was presented with a
Millennium gift of a Witch Hazel tree by their patrons Worcester
Residentiary Canon at Worcester, Bruce Ruddock, planted the
tree and the short service in the churchyard was followed by tea provided by
The Friends of Mortlake Churchyard.
Photo: Anthony Gardiner from
Friends of Mortlake Churchyard, Bruce Ruddock, Residentiary Canon at Worcester
Cathedral, the Team Rector, Rev. Peggy Jackson, and Caroline Timbrell Friends
of Mortlake Churchyard