It’s easier sometimes to work out what something isn’t rather than what it is! So, from that somewhat negative starting point this isn’t a corporate-style report to shareholders, it isn’t a review of the year, it isn’t a motivational address at a speech day and it isn’t an awards ceremony. Although thinking about it I suppose there are elements of all of those.
We do in these meetings look at organisational aspects of the church and of our finances. We do look back over the past year to see what’s happened and how things have been. We do, I hope, come away encouraged and inspired and full of hope for the year that lies before us. We do offer our hearty thanks for those who’ve worked so hard in the life of St Peter’s over the past year (though without awards I’m afraid!).
But perhaps what most fully summarises what we’re doing is affirming together our sharing in the work God is doing in this place. Somebody once defined mission as ‘finding out where God is at work, and joining in’. And I’d like to think that is a big part of what we’re about here as we seek to love and worship God and to love and serve our neighbours in his name.
This year has of course had a very particular flavour in that we have spent a good part of it in a rather peripatetic fashion, outside our church home. Having said which I think we have now got into a very good and rather ‘settled’ routine – in the Leverton Hall for the 8 o’clock services and in St Peter’s School Hall for the 10 o’clock services on Sundays. I’m not going to repeat the churchwardens’ report and summary of the Moving Onwards Together project and time line. But I think for many of us it was both enormously exciting and enormously scary when we were at last able in November to hand over the church building to the builders and begin the project we’d been talking about and planning for so long.
Various aspects of the project have been steep learning curves for many of us. For myself I now know much more about building contracts, plans, budgets and materials than I ever thought I would need (or maybe want) to know! And I’d very much like at this point to thank and pay tribute to Sadie and Christopher who have been a superb churchwarden duo throughout the project, both of them working immensely hard and staying organised, calm and positive even at the trickier points, and a genuine pleasure to work with at all times. I have personally felt hugely blessed to have the unwavering support of both of them during this past year.
But I do want to pay tribute too to all of you, the people of St Peter’s, for your patience and flexibility. You have all risen to the challenge magnificently! I hope you would agree that we have discovered together a lot more about what it means to be ‘the church’ as the people of God, and that we are ‘the church’ even when we aren’t centred in the church building. We have discovered together more about what is involved in and what matters in our worship. We have had to do some things a bit differently and that has given us new perspectives. We have perhaps gained some insight into what things are genuinely important to us, and what things we had been doing in a certain way just because we always had. Now I’m sure some of those things are different for each of us. But I hope and pray that as we move back into the church building we can listen with love and generosity to each other and to what we have all discovered over the past months.
We are continuing to learn together about our dependence on God for our church life. The whole of our life together is indeed God’s work in which we’re privileged to have a share and to play our parts. Nothing we try to do in our own strength has any value, and so we must come back again and again to the resources and riches of a life of prayer and trust.
We are coming now to another big step as we start to plan and prepare for moving back into the church building. There is a great sense of potential and new purpose as we seek to explore the difference the new entrance and newly ordered building will make to the welcome we can offer and to the ways in which we can worship, pray and learn, and serve our community. The PCC has come up with a long list of possibilities for things we might do or offer, and we’re very open to any ideas you may have, so do let us know. But it will be important to look at them in the light of our current priorities as outlined in the Action Plan, and to realise that we can’t do everything in the first few months.
Our clear priority has to be to offer the future to God, and to ensure we keep listening and seeking God’s guidance as we take this next big step. To that end I will be organising some specific prayer events, which I hope many of you will be able to support over the coming months.
And so I leave you with some words from Ephesians:
“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen”
Read more clergy letters.