I have just returned from our Reading and Silchester Circuit Meeting and would like to share the vision that occupied quite a bit of our time together. Particularly in the southern (Silchester) part of our Circuit, it has become increasingly obvious that places in neighbouring Circuits have many links with nearby places that are in our Circuit. For instance, the people of Kingsclere, which is in the Newbury and Hungerford Circuit, come into Tadley for many things in their everyday lives. So, as we contemplate being a mission-shaped church, we are exploring ways in which our mission to the area as a whole can be run across the Circuit boundary by people from both Circuits.
It is also clear that when considering mission to other areas, especialy in the south of our Circuit, Basingstoke or Andover are more natural centres than Reading - as many of us found tonight when travelling to the Circuit Meeting at Tadley and an accident at junction 11 of the M4 diverted us along unknown country lanes, where we encountered horse drawn transport!
We already have training sessions for all four Circuits together, under the name of 'Fourward', allowing us to be more ambitious in our training than we would be able to be in our separate Circuits.
Two years ago, when our Circuit was running a Disciple 3 study group in the eastern section of the Circuit, a few people from Slough and Maidenhead asked if they could join us, so that we had folk from 3 Circuits studying together. Other churches in our eastern section are closer to Wokingham and Bracknell and so they, too, are considering working together for mission across the boundaries.
We already have Circuit staff across the boundaries, with a presbyter in Windsor while his deacon wife is serving a church in West Reading. From September, we shall welcome two presbytersto the area, one of whom will serve our Silchester church while his presbyter wife will serve the Thatcham church in the Newbury and Hungerford Circuit. This means that the Circuit staff of neighbouring Circuits find themselves working together, thus heightening the possibility of extending mission to work across boundaries.
It remains to be seen whether this may lead to revision of Circuit boundaries or not. As our Superintendent Minister told us, 'It is better to work out which is the better way to do mission and then to adjust the boundaries if necessary than to create new boundaries and then try to see how we can make them work.' As my car driver said on the way home (along those unfamiliar country roads again), 'We live in exciting times.' We certainly do and there is a wonderful sense of God's Spirit at work among us and across our present boundaries.