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Annunciation service planned for Focal Ministers in Diocese of Sheffield

Goldthorpe Parish Church

Focal Ministry teams across a newly formed Mission Area will be commissioned at a service to celebrate the Annunciation later this week.

Taking place at St John’s Goldthorpe on Saturday 25th March at 12pm, the service will involve the Director of Focal Ministry, the Rev’d Dr Sally Myers, and the Associate Archdeacon and Transition Enabler, the Rev’d Canon Julie Upton,  in preaching and in the authorisation of the Focal Ministers and the commissioning of Father Carl Schaefer as the Oversight Minister.

Father Carl Schaefer is the Vicar of Goldthorpe and Hickleton and Priest in Charge of Bolton upon Dearne:

“The Annunciation is for some parts of the church a holy day of obligation. It’s a solemnity. the day on which the angel visited Mary and she became pregnant.

“We were planning on having a Eucharistic service anyway on the day of the commissioning of our Focal Ministry teams and so the officers from the Diocese will come and there’ll be a commissioning as part of what we’re obliged to be doing anyway for that day.

“You’re allowed to break your fast on solemnities during Lent, so they can have cake and chocolates there too! Apart from giving thanks to God for the Annunciation, the aim of the day is to get the Focal Ministry team inaugurated in a sense, and to try and do it in an affirming way.”

One of the interesting features about the service is the integration of Oversight Ministry within the Anglo-Catholic tradition.
Fr Carl says there are myths to bust about how these kinds of churches and services operate:

“Within the Anglo Catholic tradition, it is easy to fall into the trap of imagining that whatever the vicar says goes. There are many members of one body, each with their own particular role, function and purpose. It’s been quite interesting to see how that is going to develop in the future, because some of it is about having a succession plan. There are people that do all sorts of jobs and have all sorts of roles and functions. There are new roles and functions that out of necessity are needing to be fulfilled within the life of each of the churches.

“For me it’s been about engaging at a level rather than offloading work and it’s been more about engaging with each of the churches in a very practical way. I haven’t learned much in terms of what they do or how they function, but I have learned quite a lot about the amount of effort that goes in to running the churches by the individuals that fulfil specific roles.

“In terms of the title of Oversight Ministry, the term ‘oversight’ can have a different meaning in communities where it might be associated more with, for example, a ‘gaffer.’ We use the word ‘oversight’ like the role model of a good shepherd, rather than the gaffer. It’s been something of a challenge, but if we take Jesus as the role model in terms of oversight, then it is about gentle encouragement and urging – as a shepherd would.

“That requires of me a constant look at how I engage with both the team and individuals rather than simply trying to maintain what we have. It’s about missional activity and shepherding people in order that they might engage more profitably in that partnership.”

The day itself is a Principal Holy Day in the Anglican church. It remembers the announcement of the incarnation by the angel Gabriel to Mary (Luke 1.26-38). It is also known as Lady Day and is celebrated nine months before Christmas.

Fr Carl hopes the significance of the day will help to bring about a positive reaction:

“I hope this will bring about a new start. There are lots of reasons why the Annunciation takes place when it does, not least that it’s near to Spring; as we’re heading towards Easter time we will look at new beginnings and new starts.

“To affirm, encourage and nurture people has not always been seen as a priority and it’s something that we need to work harder at to bring the best out of people to enable them to flourish. I hope people will come away from this feeling encouraged to engage fully in this new start.

“The notions of oversight ministry and focal ministry are there throughout scripture and throughout history in the church. There’s no harm in looking afresh at these things because by simply engaging with the world as it is, we lose sight of how we should be a good church and how we should function properly as a church.

“I think it’s going to be a constant source of reflection moving forwards.”

Director of Focal Ministry Sally Myers said:

“It is very fitting that the Mission Area will be named after the day on which it is established. We hope that it will encourage all those called to bring the love of God into the lives of the people and parishes within the Mission Area.

“We ask for your prayers for the wonderful Focal Ministers beginning this new chapter of ministry with Fr Carl, who will be authorised and commissioned at the same service.”

The Associate Archdeacon the Rev’d Canon Julie Upton said:

“As Father Carl has said this marks the beginning of a new start for the people of Goldthorpe, Hickleton and Bolton Upon Dearne. In the service on the 25th March Father Carl will be commissioned as Oversight Minister, the Focal Ministers will be authorised and we will celebrate the commitment of these three church communities to work together in their newly formed ‘Annunciation Mission Area’.  We give thanks to God for the journey so far and we ask for your prayers for their continuing journey as they seek to serve God together.”