Vicars’ Blog – August 2017 – Steering a course for growth and life!

Steering a course for growth and life!

A couple of years ago, on our sabbatical, we were privileged to visit Sydney. While we were there a huge cruise ship with ten decks came into the harbour. It dwarfed the surrounding boats and some buildings. The people on the ship were not short of things to do – there were five restaurants catering for different tastes, a cinema, dramatic entertainment, seminars and workshops on a variety of subjects, a hairdresser and beauty salon. There were all kinds of activities from ballroom dancing to Pilates, from badminton to deck quoits and several swimming pools. Now imagine, all these different departments are working well, the passengers are happily entertained, importantly, the engines are working fine and all seems to be well. But there is one problem, the ship is going round in circles. Nobody has decided where it is going and nobody is steering a course.

A church is a bit like a ship. It maybe a smaller sea-going vessel, or it may be a big cruise ship and if all areas like the choir, the children’s groups, the gardening team, the flower arranging, the production of the Parish diary, are working OK, we may not even notice that there is no direction and no course being steered. Gone are the days of simply expecting people to arrive in church. As we know, the statistics are quite frightening on the rate of decline of church attenders. And it is not only the number of attendees that is going down, but that those who are leaving church are the younger people under 25. This means that unless churches are intentional about encouraging people into church, people will not come. This year we have adopted three priorities as our Church Development Plan. These are Welcome, Belonging and Discipleship. The PCC are working on ways for us to improve in each of these areas. That gives us a focus for this year. But we also want to set a course for the future, looking at five to eight years. Then we can have more wisdom in building resources and using our buildings etc. This is the reason we have started the process of discerning the direction and vision God is giving us. We can’t do everything and this will highlight what our focus should be as we steer a course towards growth and life.

Thank you to all those who filled in the Vision Stage 1 Questionnaire. This month we are gathering photos and memorabilia so that we can celebrate who we are as a church. “Our Story” if you will. Do bring them to the office or give them to Margaret Valentine or Alastair Duke. We will put together a display for Heritage day on Saturday 9th September and really celebrate “Our Story”.

Stage 2 will be more about the future, called “Where we are going?” We hope for a maximum number of people to participate in this process. Please start to pray and ask God what direction, and what he wants the church to look like in five to eight years time. Please also pray for those who will collate all the information we gather and synthesise it into a Vision for the church for the future in the autumn. We believe God has been leading the parish of St Mary and St John on an amazing journey and we are very excited to see what the next phase of this journey looks like as we “set sail”. God is a generous and loving God and longs to transform the lives of all of us, whether inside or outside the church, with the love of Jesus. Let us pray to steer a course towards growth and life, guided by God and his Holy Spirit.