A new way to support churches: The Bridge Circuit

12 September 2023

At the start of September, the Yorkshire North & East District launched its new Bridge Circuit. The circuit has an employee that will take care of the governance, freeing the ministers to work and focus on being missional. In Methodism, a circuit is a group of churches served by a team of ministers. The circuit is the primary unit in which local churches express and experience their interconnection in the Body of Christ, for purposes of mission, mutual encouragement and support.

Previously, some circuits in the Yorkshire North & East District had been experiencing challenges in fulfilling all their obligations. Normally, they would merge with nearby circuits but, in these cases, the merger could lead to them losing their identities. “We wanted to protect ‘the local’, their identity and strength, and still enable them to flourish”, explains Revd Leslie Newton, Chair of the Yorkshire North and East Methodist District.

The district team came up with an innovative idea: for all those churches scattered around the area to create their own circuit. A new operations manager takes the lead on the governance, ensuring the finances are in good order, making sure that the properties are well looked after and that safeguarding and GDPR work are all covered.

For Revd Nic Bentley, Superintendent of the Bridlington Mission Area, “This new circuit provides an opportunity to embrace different ways of supporting and encouraging God’s work. In particular, the reshaped governance arrangements willseek to ensure that governance and trusteeship is done with excellence, and in such a way as to release as much time, energy and space to local churches so that they can flourish in their mission and ministry.”

The Bridge Circuit will allow the ministers to focus on their calling. The sense that important and necessary matters such as governance and trusteeship can feel like a distraction from mission was discussed within the district. “For some people, governance is their thing and their contribution to church life. We did not want to take that away from them,” adds Leslie. “But, for many, governance is not their calling and we wanted to help them.”

This is a new way of being a circuit, keeping the local identity of the distinctive areas and helping them to thrive and become places of mission. Not only does it take over all the governance, but it leaves the churches free to explore the initiatives they are interested in. “Each church can dream their vision and then work through it, the circuit is there to make sure that, as much as possible, they are freed at the grassroots from what can, sometimes, get in the way,” says Leslie.

The Bridge Circuit has another difference: a modified constitution that means the circuit meeting is a lot smaller than usual. The trustees of the circuit, the operations manager and the district representatives total less than 15 people, which makes meetings more efficient and manageable.

The four nonadjacent circuits that form the Bridge Circuit are Pateley Bridge, Pocklington & Market Weighton (now joined as Wold’s Edge Methodist Church), Bridlington and Beverley. Each of these circuits are in a different situation, there is one where the church is in several locations, another has a number of churches, some ministers are full-time and others part-time.

“This is about creating an atmosphere and an environment in which all sorts of new things can grow. I hope that many new initiatives will develop from this new circuit and that's part of the plan,” concludes Leslie.