Supporting our ministry and leadership –  welcoming Rev. Rory Castle Jones into a new role  

19 December 2023

We are delighted to announce that Rev. Dr Rory Castle Jones will be taking up the new role of Ministry & Leadership Development Officer at the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches. Starting on 1st January 2024, this new role will see Rory supporting ministry and leadership in the Unitarian movement – as we go through big changes in our congregations, movement and society.

This role will involve working closely with our fifty active Unitarian & Free Christian ministers, and the many more trustees and other leaders across our movement, as well as key stakeholders such as Unitarian College, Harris Manchester College Oxford, the Ministerial Fellowship, and others. We want to continue supporting our excellent ministers and leaders not merely to ‘survive’ in an environment of declining church attendance and dwindling full-time ministry positions, but to ‘thrive’ by meeting new social, cultural and spiritual realities well with the ethos of our Unitarian and Free Christian tradition.

Rev. Dr Rory Castle Jones was ordained in 2021 and is minister to Gellionnen Chapel in the Swansea Valley, south Wales, a congregation which has experienced revival and growth in the past decade. Rory has served as our part-time denominational Communications Officer since 2018, a time of big changes in how we work, connect and communicate internally and with the world. Prior to the ministry, Rory worked in Higher Education and has a PhD in History. Outside of work, he enjoys learning languages, long walks in the mountains with his husband and dogs, and travel. 

On his new role, Rory says: 

“In the past five years as I’ve progressed through ministry training and formation and spent two and a half years as a serving Unitarian minister, I’ve become a passionate advocate for the needs of our ministers and leaders. Ministry and church leadership is hard, challenging, rewarding and life-changing work. Our ministers and leaders need support and we, as a denomination, need to take a deep and serious look at our structures, networks, organisations and culture, to ensure that we are training, resourcing, developing and supporting our leaders properly for church and ministry in the twenty-first century. 

At the height of the pandemic, Rev. Andy Pakula and I led a Zoom course for Unitarian leaders called “Leading Change In The Congregation” based on the book of the same title by Gil Rendle. In my new role, I will do my best to be guided by Rendle’s advice: “We do wish for easy answers, for silver bullets, for proven programs, for implementable solutions. When paradigms shift, when deep change is needed, our very assumptions, values and behaviours are questioned. The real challenge is to re-invent the very world we live in.” 

I’m excited and delighted to be starting this new role, working with colleagues to strengthen existing support and develop new ways of nourishing, developing and supporting our leaders.” 

Chief Officer, Liz Slade says:

“Long before being in this role, I have been carrying questions around the types of leadership that we need for these times, and I often found myself looking to ministry as representing the qualities of leadership that work – being grounded in something beyond the day-to-day, valuing relationships, leaning in to uncertainty, listening carefully inside ourselves and to those around us, boldness in speaking truth, humility in recognising our own mistakes and limitations, and being oriented towards the creation of a loving world. These qualities exist in abundance in our ministers and leaders, but the toll of the challenges of covid, and of shrinking congregations means that now is a time that we must invest in strengthening our culture of healthy leadership, and supporting those who have taken responsibility for the flourishing of their community.

Rory’s position as a new minister, who has built connections and relationships with leaders across the country through his work as Communications Officer, means that he is attuned to the challenges that we are navigating together. He wouldn’t claim to have all the answers, but I know first hand that he is a brilliant person to explore the questions with. I’m excited about this new chapter.”

Rory begins his new role in the new year, and will be working as part of the central team supporting ministers and congregations with Simon Bland, our Ministry & Congregational Support Officer, and Lizzie Kingston-Harrison, our Congregational Connections Lead.