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Major changes to The College of Preachers

09:00 31/12/2017
Major changes to The College of Preachers

We are delighted to be able to update you, on behalf of the Chair of the College, Bishop Stephen Cottrell and the Executive, on major changes to The College of Preachers that we believe will strengthen and secure its future as the premier preacher training agency in the UK and which has implications for all members.

The College of Preachers has secured a Strategic Partnership Agreement with Hymns Ancient & Modern (HA&M). HA&M is a leading book and magazine publisher (SCM, Canterbury Press, Church Times etc.) and distributer, as many of you will know. It publishes the annual Preacher's Companion as well as other books to assist preachers. Recently it organised its first and very successful Festival of Preaching, which we, among others, sponsored. We therefore believe there is a real synergy between the College and HA&M which will be of benefit to us all.

The College, in common with other church agencies, has struggled in recent decades to grow and even to remain viable in the face of static circulation figures for The Preacher, reduced numbers attending our conferences, despite excellent programmes and reviews, and a shortage of people willing to assume responsibilities for the College against diminishing income to fund paid officers. These challenges proved too intractable to be addressed by the new Director appointment in 2015.

This precipitated a difficult, not to say, tortuous period for the Executive in discerning the way ahead for the College or even whether it had a future. We feel keenly an obligation to explain and share with you something of our thinking and initiatives but we hope you will appreciate that the subsequent intense negotiations had to be kept confidential and were market sensitive.

Our partnership with HA&M is emphatically a partnership, not a merger. The College will retain its own identity and the work of the College will continue.

In respect to The Preacher, the quality of the journal is well recognised, and the College will maintain its own editorial team. The redesign, printing, distribution and marketing of The Preacher will be undertaken by HA&M.

The College of Preachers has its own website and this will be upgraded and extended by HA&M.

With regard to training, the College's greatest asset is its tutors and with the enormous reach, contacts and capacity for advertising and marketing of HA&M, we expect that there will be a greater demand for our tutors. We will need to ensure we have more tutors with a wider representation of age, gender, ethnicity, church traditions, preaching styles and geographical spread.

In relation to major preaching events such as conferences and festivals of preaching, the College and HA&M will work together to plan complementary or joint programmes, always with the benefits of the advertising and publicity provided by HA&M.

To complete the picture, HA&M is an obvious agent for publishing the academic research and other written material encouraged and created by the College, with the College also able to draw upon the experience of HA&M authors.

We hope you catch a sense of our excitement that we are on the threshold of a new and dynamic chapter in the life of the College.

There are two changes affecting the members of the College that are conditions of the partnership.

The first is a change to the 'membership' category. A few years ago, a change was agreed to extend membership to everyone by virtue of subscribing to The Preacher. This was intended to encourage greater participation in the College and, in particular, to extend voting rights to enable members to choose those who represent them on the Executive and as trustees. How far that has achieved its purpose is not the issue now. It is that for the partnership to go ahead, members need to be willing to revert back to being simply subscribers. When we sounded out the members who came to our 2017 AGM they had no problem in returning to the pre-2011 subscription basis and had no appetite for attending a meeting simply to register their decision. We hope all our current members feel the same way.

The second change is the need to transfer your name and contact details to HA&M so that everyone can continue to receive The Preacher. Subscribers to HA&M would also be eligible for a discount on their Canterbury and SCM books. Only names and basic contact details (address, email and phone), together with payment details and renewal date have been transferred. To save everyone the trouble of responding, we have been advised that the usual procedure is for us to assume that you would like to continue to receive The Preacher and allow us to pass your details to HA&M, unless you inform us otherwise.

HA&M will then be the ones to get in touch with you at the time when your subscription is due for renewal.

Meanwhile we very much hope that you are as pleased as we are with the possibilities this new arrangement opens up and that you share our excitement at the new partnership on which we are about to embark.

Since the beginning of December the administration of The College of Preachers has been transferred to the offices of HA&M, at Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd, 13a Hellesdon Park Road, Norwich NR6 5DR. We hope, if funds permit, that we will be able to appoint an officer of the College, half time, to promote the work of the College and to oversee its marketing and administration.

We would be pleased to hear from people who feel they may like to contribute to the College in any way, including as tutors or sermon writers, or to discuss the roles we have as trustee, treasurer or as senior officer of the College. Until our new website is available, you should email our Vice-Chair, Rev. Canon Roger Spiller.

We thank you for your continuing support of the College.