CTH Secretarial Improvements and Developments
A summary page highlighting how the Exec of CTH were planning the improvement and development of the Exec and Secretarial work of Churches Together, taking effect from the AGM on 13 May 2009.
This page includes some background on the driving ethos and breadth of the Exec and Secretarial work of CTH over recent years as well as describing how the skill sets required have been explored, along with some of the plans of the Working Group to improve and develop the work.
Two versions were produced at the request of the President. The shorter version was added to the CTH website and distributed to churches in late 2008. Around a dozen replies were received.
46 question / 18 question versions are added as attachments at the foot of this page.
So far, no specific research with the 'secular' community of Harrogate and the region has been done by the Working Group. (The retiring Hon Sec often described the audience for the work of CTH as being the 'outside community', using language appropriate to the Tourist Information Centre as a basis.)
One to one interviews
The President visited some of the church leaders of Harrogate during the winter of 2008 and approached the Church House Trust to establish funding to support this extensive ecumenical work.
The Past President, Canon Lawrie Hulme, and the retiring Hon Secretary started the work of breaking down the Exec and Secretarial ministry of Churches Together in Harrogate into more than just a list of jobs; his year-end report noted the urgent need to reduce the workload on the Secretary.
During group discussion with all the Church Leaders present at Wydale II (day two) and later research with WYEC's County Ecumenical Development Officer resulted in several notable and important conclusions including: 'The secretarial and website management role must not be performed by a computer technician, but rather one who is able to develop humble working relationships across all denominational groups and leaders. CTH must avoid appointing someone simply because they know how to use a computer programme.'
The skills sets drawn on in 2002-2009 have been described as those of a diplomat, ambassador, mediator and conflict manager, director, project and events manager, publicist, marketing manager, communications officer, senior web editor (who sees the global picture) and, occasionally, quiet musician as well as administrator and oft-mentioned 'minute secretary'. As with other ministries of this nature and size, much of the work is unseen and often misunderstood.
The Working Group was offered support to help make the most of this opportunity to improve and develop the Exec and Secretarial work of CTH. To support both the Exec and the process, the retiring Hon Sec supplied a simple leadership styles matrix to help the Working Group to draw on people with the necessary skills to move things forward. The Hon Sec also offered a quick Leadership styles exercise and a comparative Accountabilities document prepared for Youth for Christ in 2007 (welcomed by British YfC Personnel Dept as unique in that it melded Business and Biblical best practice). (The retiring Hon Sec's career included Recruitment and Psychometrics as well as Training and Development).
The ethos and motivation which have directed the work have been based on 'deny oneself' and 'promoting everyone else's ministry over his own'.
True humility in leadership is seen in humble service, welcoming God's gifts in others and providing rich opportunities to allow their lights to shine.
A key element of the Secretarial work of CTH has been a strong customer-focused approach. In the same way that Jesus asked Bartimæus "What do you want...?", the secretary has listened to the requests and cries of the community and the churches, found out the answers and published them, usually within a minimal time frame.
This outward-looking principle has been the antithesis of "Knowledge is power"; the secretary has published information to help others rather than withholding it for his own gain. This research has been continual - finding out what God is doing across the churches and publishing what is found. 'Research' (also noted in the diagram below) demanded building loving and synergistic relationships with political, civic, business and voluntary sectors, national and local media, church leaders, musicians and choir masters as well as members of the laity, stewards, trustees, caretakers and wardens. Perhaps this level of 'networking' - and the fruit it has borne - has been misunderstood, with a few misconceiving the secretarial role as, worryingly, 'the most powerful position in the local Church'.
This has perhaps uncovered a deep misunderstanding of the place of power and authority in the Church, where the humble servant heart is seen as attractive by many but a threat by those who mistakenly think that one person is trying to seek power or control others. The work has simply and only been serving the customer, the community, the church and God.
The community around us has, of course, been extremely grateful for the accurate and instant availability of answers, support and help. Whilst the Hon Sec has, sadly, been criticised for 'doing churches work for them', those outside the walls of our churches have not had to wait for those shy or reluctant groups to respond. (Astonishingly, this includes a handful of souls who choose not to reply to requests; one has even set up several websites of their own, every one out of date). CTH has, maybe, another accolade: keeping the customer satisfied, showing how we love God and neighbour - together.
CTH has been applauded for making the effort to find the good news and take the time to pass it on; the underlying ethos again showing the attitude of humble service. The diagram suggests the typical activity resulting from this ethos. The areas noted in the diagram simply offers responses emanating from a 'servant heart' - the pie chart segments are in no way a prescriptive 'to do' list for CTH (some might latch onto such a list and assume that ticking all the boxes would bring fame...)
The need to follow the Lord's Commandment to love before even considering how we respond to the Great Commission 'to preach' has resulted in humble relationships with the wider community.
Indeed, the command to 'Love God and love your neighbour as yourself' has been unpacked many times. Loving your neighbour with all your heart, mind and strength demands: valuing your neighbour, honouring your neighbour, encouraging, lifting up, respecting, welcoming, rejoicing over your neighbour's ministry and so on. Such love bears a special fruit which is as sweet as music in harmony - a true, unforced unity.
By comparison, a work that demands that 'all follow in one direction* or become one church' has been described as shallow and even to being manipulative, controlling and correspondingly weak in the Fruit of the Spirit. 'Without love, unity is worth nothing.' There's more background on the ethos within the longer questionnaire.
[*It had been suggested (before the Working Group met) that CTH should follow the lead of a small group of churches and change the CTH Contstitution. Those unhappy with the change would be allowed to leave the organisation. Rather than improving and developing the work of Churches Together and showing how much Christians love their neighbours, such a move would have split the wider church apart.]
Advertiser Church Diary column
In 2006, a wise member of a local church passed on a collection of unsavoury emails to the Hon Sec. The vitriolic correspondence arrogantly declared that the churches of Harrogate had a right to a regular Church Diary column. The phrase "How to win friends and influence people" comes to mind...
The Hon Secretary apologised to the newspaper on behalf of others, understanding the principle of the cross where one person accepted the blame for others' folly. The CTH offer - to provide a one-stop source of every Trinitarian church's details and services - was warmly welcomed. The Hon Sec has expressed much gratitude to Ackrills on behalf of the wider church ever since the new column started in November 2006, especially including such very long lists at Christmas and Easter.
Up to 2006, it was noted how the churches were labelled as the worst complaining group in the area. Far from being appreciated for the way we love one another, we were known for an attribute not included in the teachings of our Lord. Our relationship with those ouside the church, including the press, illustrates how we relate and work with one another.
The content for the Church Diary column (example) was prepared up to five months in advance on the Churches Together in Harrogate (archive website), allowing every church to proof read their entries in advance of publication and advise changes.
The President of CTH invited a small number of local Christians to form a Working Group to explore how to improve and develop the Exec and Secretarial work of CTH. The Working Group met on Friday 13 March 2009; the treasurer and retiring secretary were not included in the meeting.
After the Working Group had met, the President reported back to the CTH Exec on Thursday 26 March 2009.
In order to improve and develop the ministry of Churches Together in Harrogate, the Working Group has decided on the following changes:
- The Working Group have decided to close down the published one-call telephone number for the community and region (548778) with effect from 13 May 2009
- The email address ‘ctharrogate-@-googlemail.com' remains
(all old email addresses are being withdrawn from mid May – ‘United Gigs', ‘CHT.Harrogate' etc)
- Pro-active research to populate the Harrogate Advertiser & Knaresborough Post ‘Church Diary' column will cease [please do not blame Ackrills – retiring Hon Sec].
It is up to churches to email CTH by Monday for that Friday's edition. (This service awaits confirmation from the CTH Exec)
[The CTH Exec were advised that the Anglican Deanery and Methodist Circuit websites are maintained by sole web editors to ensure accuracy and eliminate hacking and fraud]
- The Working Group have no plans to answer future TIC, hotel and community requests for Easter and Christmas service brochures
This listing has been requested by hotel guests and visitors to the area since 2002 and has resulted in increased attendance, reduced ministerial workload/telephone requests, plaudits from the hotels, Harrogate TIC, the Yorkshire Tourist Board and even members of churches who call into TIC to find out what is going on in their own churches.
- There are currently no published plans to continue or improve the surface mailing service; note that future dates and expected contents have been listed on the Communications page.
This was part of the service developed by Paul Tennyson during his fourteen years as Hon Sec to CTH.
- It is uncertain what is to happen to the highly praised CTH website; early reports suggest it will lose most of its content, especially the archives (perhaps to be rebuilt by an archivist in the future?)
- There are no plans for future fraternals akin to Wydale I & II.
- The Working Group have not published any plans to develop the weekly visitations, church leader and ministry mentoring, supporting and nurturing local unity, the life of the wider church and its relationship with the community.
Next steps for the retiring secretary's office
Due to declining health and excessive demands on time and finances, the Hon Sec is stepping down in 2009; he last asked for secretarial help in 2007, sadly to no avail. Recent AGM reports especially have highlighted the growing work and the need for support.
At the AGM on 13 May 2009 at Wesley chapel, Harrogate, the retiring Secretary is returning all CTH owned equipment (PC, printer and peripherals) and files.
The telephone number 548778 will be closed down and the retiring Secretary is expected to move in the summer of 2009 from '12 Kingsley Road'.
For personal contact with the retiring secretary, please visit his website www.threehumpsmusic.org.uk