Reshaping Family Life

The Revd. Dr. Bob Mayo, Vicar of Shepherd's Bush and Chaplain to QPR.

The Revd. Dr. Bob Mayo and his colleague the Revd. Anne Cowley were both welcomed to the 2013 AGM.  Their talk began with Anne sharing her background as an SSM whose marriage has recently broken down.


Bob shared some statistics including that although women now make up 50% of those ordained they are still only 30% of clergy.  SSMs are more likely to be a woman (48%) and within many CofE parishes SSMs are not authorised to take a lead role or have the same authority as stipendiary clergy.


Sharing his own story, Bob said that although we cannot always choose what happens to us, we can choose how we handle it!!  Bob had read the story of Broken Rites and said that he felt it was made up of “pastoral people who have become prophets”.


Although the nuclear family has fallen away in recent decades, new types of families have replaced them.  There are now new ways of bringing up and nurturing children.  Bob described his involvement in the research project “Generation Y” which involves young people up to the age of 30. 


Post-war parenting was very strict and this was reflected in the relationship between parent and child.  This has now changed to friendship parenting and as a result the relationship between child and parent has become informal, a friendship rather than formal parenting.  The parent moves into a childhood space, forcing the child into adult space and leading to premature adult socialisation.  So within a “broken family” intimacy replaces security.


There is nothing sacrosanct about the nuclear family which has only been in existence about 150 years, evolving during the industrial revolution and which depended on a rigid separation of male and female roles (and not designed for two partners going out to work).  The nuclear family was in the minority in the 2011 census.  Britain is one of the countries where a child is least likely to grow up with both parents.  The issue with single parent families is not one of care of the children but poverty and the effect on children of on-going antagonism between parents, especially when children have to act as mediators.  The bible uses the term “household” and scripture and practices in other countries give a clear grasp of extended/blended families.  Divorce can result in different ways of leading a family and a different way of seeing family structures.  There can be value and energy in newly constituted step-families with their new and different configurations.


Children had simple and uncomplicated relationships with adults but now there is a danger that we are bringing up a generation without masculine role models.  Churches and other new groupings can provide some of these relationships as people learn together how to do “family”.


At the end of the talk, which was challenging and thoughtful, various questions were asked.  Alexandra Green then thanked Bob and Anne for their talk and for giving up their time and presented Bob with a token of our thanks.


AGM April 2013.