Sixteen years in private practice supporting individuals and organisations
As my post as Director of the Council for Christian Care was declared redundant I could have returned to parish work but after 10 years of working ecumenically I was unwilling to return to one denominational parochial ministry. Moreover I was increasingly frustrated with a church that was unwilling fully to welcome the ministry of women or to accept gay people within its life; it was also exclusive of people with disabilities who were typically either patronised or ignored.
During a retreat at Quarr Abbey and in discussion with my wife we decided to form a business partnership to continue and extend work we had in hand. We called ourselves “Charisma Consultancy”. Margaret trained as an executive secretary while I undertook a course of professional development and in the mid nineties read a second Master’s degree at the University of Kent.
Work with individuals
I have long had interest in counselling, beginning in 1960 with a visit to my theological college by Dr. Frank Lake whose “Clinical Theology” brought a casework approach to pastoral care. I had practiced this as a parish priest, “saw” some clients while at the Council for Christian Care and was now able to establish a counselling practice within Charisma Consultancy. To support this I embarked on regular casework supervision and personal counselling for myself.
I saw clients in Devon and in London and, linking with another counsellor, we also began some work with groups, notably one for gay men. I worked with other colleagues studying gender issues. This was particularly relevant as the Church of England began to ordain women to the priesthood. With these various colleagues we arranged day and weekend courses and offered our services to organisations.
I facilitated experiential workshops for small groups on inter-personal skills under the title of “Meeting Human Needs”. Some of these turned into ongoing mutual support groups for their members, many of whom were experiencing pressure from their domestic, community or work situations. This personal, training and group work was enormously varied and rewarding, if also demanding. People shared very personal details of their lives, relationships and work and in doing so were able to make changes, set new goals and resolve discomforts.
Work with organisations
Some of our clients were organisations to which we offered either external consultancy or direct support and administrative services.
I had already developed a programme of disability awareness-raising for the churches and helped set up Church Action on Disability (CHAD), servicing its committees, dealing with correspondence, addressing meetings, etc. and generally carrying forward its work throughout the country. Ultimately this helped to prepare the churches for the Disability Discrimination Act.
This proved to be the first of a number of projects with organisations. Typically, after a period of research, a report was prepared and follow-on work was commissioned. Thus we worked with PHAB – a national network of youth clubs – to identify the double discrimination experienced by disabled young people who were also from ethnic minority backgrounds. Having made our recommendations we also carried through a programme of training around the country.
We had previously helped to establish a family mediation service in Exeter and were now available to administer this, co-ordinating the activities of the conciliators, receiving referrals, supporting the trustees, arranging training, etc. With this experience I was asked to advise a similar service emerging in Worcester.
For an organisation offering training for unemployed young people in London we were asked to advise about the wider pastoral care of trainees and staff. This arose from my experience of leading such an agency while in Devon.
Assistance was offered to parishes: in one case this meant facilitating a mission audit and parish profile for the appointment of a new vicar. At another we worked with church authorities, architect and congregation as a new church centre was developed following a complex programme of pastoral re-organisation. At a further church I supported a staff team, facilitating team meetings and easing relationships.
A major consultancy was commissioned by the Science Museum to recommend how scientific ethics could be pursued alongside its traditional work. The need for this was indicated by the changing circumstances within which all museums were required to work and by a growing awareness of the fragility of the environment.
While much of this work was carried out on the basis of negotiated fees, I also found myself well placed to assist causes in which I was interested in a voluntary capacity. Thus I served as Chair of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) for a couple of years while it was being incorporated as a charitable company. Similarly I Chaired the London Philharmonic Choir through a time of re-structuring and, later, of the Tower Hamlets Co-operative Development Agency.
The work of those 16 years provided many opportunities for writing a variety of related articles, papers and study material. Some of this is reflected in the various topics offered on this website.
There have been a number of tours, holidays and pilgrimages including 4 to The Holy Land (2 of them for people with disabilities) and another to Turkey. For LGCM there was a week in France to mark its first 21 years and more recently there have been 3 holiday weeks in the UK inspired by the style of the Edward Carpenter Community.
Charisma Consultancy provided the means for me to offer self-supporting part-time parish ministry. For 4 years I was an assistant priest at Hackney and for 8 at St. Botolph’s church, Aldgate – back in London Diocese where I began.
The variety of my working life as a priest has been wide, reflecting the widening scope of the latter part of the 20th century in every field. This has been particularly true of the 16 years self-employment which feeds into my present reflection and writing – see particularly the pages on Priesthood on this website.
To order a copy of the monograph Priesthood through the twenty-first century for £5 click below (Paypal, postage and packing free)
‘Holy Trinty Brompton: The Garden’, Simon Winch, c.1963, copperplate etching, private collection
‘The Bridge, Sturminster Newton’, Paul Hart, 1971, indian ink and colourwash on cream paper, private collection
Two images from Kingswood District Council Official Guide, c1970
Colour photography by John Peirce
A 20TH CENTURY PRIESTHOOD IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND
HOLY TRINITY, BROMPTON: 1961-1964 WAREHAM: 1964-1968
STURMINSTER NEWTON: 1968-74
KINGSWOOD, BRISTOL: 1974-1979
A DECADE IN SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: 1979-1989