At the end of his term as principal at St Barnabas College (SBC), the Rev’d Dr Don Owers will remain here at SBC but in a new capacity. At the invitation of the Archbishop, Don will be continuing in half time capacity as Ministry Development Advisor for the Diocese working under the SBC banner and reporting to the Principal.
This is different from The Rev’d Nic Denny-Dimitriou’s role as Director of Formation and Discernment which is largely responsible for the discernment and encouragement of the various vocations of individuals, which may or may not lead to ordination. Don’s new role, however, will involve working with parishes and clergy to encourage them and provide advice and support as they seek to work towards their goals under the Diocesan Vision 2022.
When asked what sorts of advice parishes might expect, Don said “for example, if parishes are looking to more effectively harness the gifts of lay people, I might be able to suggest ideas about how to help teams work purposefully and harmoniously.” He continued, “it’s a role that’s focussed at the local church level. But also, it’s really one of encouragement and communication. As I go around to talk to people in parishes, I’m really getting grassroots information which may not be readily accessible to those in charge of shaping policy.”
The role should help reinforce a greater connection between SBC and parishes in general, building a mutually beneficial bridge so that the college can support local churches with the resources, courses and structures they need for their ministries. As Don put it, “being within the college means that I am in touch with what is available. If you would like to train small group leaders, for example, there are various ways you can do that. You can do it in-house, various resources are available, or you might be able to pursue particular course or subject offerings, or we could have a staff member come out and run a small group leader’s course for you.”
Don’s new role stems from a commitment, by the Diocese, to provide more support to those in ministry (clergy and lay) at the local church level. Don said, “the role of leadership in local churches in today’s climate is one of the most difficult leadership roles there is and that’s because it combines two very difficult leadership roles into one.” He went on to explain, “One of the most difficult tasks someone can be asked to do in an organisation is a ‘turn around operation’, where you’ve got an organisation that is plateaued or struggling and someone is asked to renew its vision and re-energise its life and mission. Not only this, but the leadership of volunteers is a challenge also, as there are all kinds of incentives and disincentives that one can use in a commercial setting which are not available (and are often counterproductive and inappropriate) when presented to volunteers. You take these are two very challenging roles, you put them together in one and then tell the priest or minister ‘that is what we want you to do’. We don’t really give them much training for this task in their first degree in theology, and so we want to provide further support for those we ask to undertake this very challenging role.
When asked how this all work, he said “My approach will be to inquire as to whether parishes would like me to come and speak to them. So initially I’ll be speaking to clergy and then perhaps to parish councils. If after that the parish would like to engage with me, I will come in and work with them. In other words, I’ll work with those who will want to work with me.” On a personal note Don is looking forward to, hopefully, having a more direct impact on the wellbeing of of parishes. “If I could provide some advice that can give some encouragement, maybe helps them see a way forward and that lifts their spirits then that will be great!”