The Archdeacon of the East Riding, Andy Broom, writes:

When I have finished writing this, I shall be driving to Norfolk for a family wedding. I’m going ‘home’.

Soon we’ll pass the county sign declaring ‘Norfolk- Nelson’s county’ and I’ll cheer as I do every time. This is where I was born, this is where most of my family are, my roots go deep - this is ‘home’.

But for eight years I’ve lived in Beverley, that’s also my ‘home’. Yet I always feel that as archdeacon my sense of belonging and connection stretches across the whole archdeaconry - East Yorkshire is ‘home’. And there’s a real sense, also, that I belong to the diocese. Before coming here we had nearly eighteen years in Chesterfield where we were deeply embedded in parish life. The sense of loss was so great that for the first few years I couldn’t face going back - we’d left our ‘home’ behind.

For most of us, having a sense of belonging is important and often profound. Our experiences will all vary but we all need to belong. Of course, traditionally from a church perspective we belong to a ‘parish’. The notion sits deep in the Anglican psyche. But it seems to me that whilst the human need to ‘belong’ remains strong, the notion of belonging to a particular parish has been slowly eroded over recent years.

The concept is almost meaningless in many urban areas. In rural contexts many don’t actually worship in the parish where they live and, although some still resist the idea, in many multi-parish benefices people are happy to travel into other parishes for services and other ministries. In everyday life those who don’t come to church travel for amenities and hobbies way beyond their ‘parish’ and they will also travel for church if they choose to. Our world is changing.

It’s interesting that in the midst of this, the word ‘parochial’ has tended to take on a negative flavour - describing an attitude that is narrow, closed and lacking in openness or generosity. As we commit ourselves to ‘Live Christ’s Story’, many are realising that working with others beyond our parish brings many benefits. Working with others enables us to learn together, share resources and engage in mission and ministry more effectively. There seems to be an irony here for us to grasp and work out in practice – that whilst Parish Churches are here to stay, parochialism needs to go. This is essential if we are to see more people discovering their deep need to belong being met, in the unique and wonderful way that only our God and his Church can provide.

Andy Broom