01 May Vicars’ Blog – May 2021 – Looking Forward
Posted at 12:00h in Vicars' Blog
Verbal Report given at the APCM 26.04.2021
You have read the Annual Report and reports from the three teams – Discipleship Team, Caring Team and Action Team in Parish Matters, so we will quickly summarise the Key messages from 2020 and take this opportunity to look ahead.
We have done really well in our response to a global pandemic – churches generally – even the government have acknowledged the invaluable contribution of churches during lockdown – and our church as well – stepping out of our comfort zones to help our neighbours, showing care for one another and meeting for worship in a variety of new ways.
We need to raise our giving financially to the church as we are not paying for the ministry and mission we enjoy and aspire to.
We are a great Church. We have begun to sense more of being a community – the family of God, going out of our way to keep in touch and pray for one another – and it feels good.
There are people we haven’t seen. Some will come back, and some won’t. The pandemic has helped us to realise what is important in our lives and we have all made our choices accordingly.
Yesterday in his sermon, Jonny asked us to consider, if someone really cared for you, really knew you and only wanted the best for you, offered you anything, like God did for King Solomon. What would you ask for? Have a little think. I chose three things. I chose love, people, and purpose.
– Firstly, I really want to know God loves me. My identity is in knowing I am a child of God. I also really value my family and friends.
– Secondly, I want people. I have missed meeting together with the family of God in our church and the wider church.
– Thirdly I want purpose. What is my life without the purpose that the Lord gives me?
My thinking is much clearer about what is important in my life right now, because of Covid-19. Times of crisis catapult us into different things and clarify what’s important to us. So, in our church, we don’t want to miss this moment – of clear thinking, as we reshape the church for life after Covid.
Christians sometimes use the word “Kairos” this is a Kairos moment. The Archbishop of York used this phrase on Friday at General Synod. Kairos is an Ancient Greek word meaning the right, critical, or opportune moment. The ancient Greeks had two words for time: Chronos and Kairos. Chronos refers to chronological or sequential time, while Kairos signifies a proper or opportune time for action. Kairos time calls for action, conversion, and transformation. Kairos is not just crisis but opportunity and favour. God assists us in discerning the Kairos – a moment of grace e.g. “Now is the time to seek the Lord.” Psalm 95 – “Today if you hear his voice harden not your hearts”.
Across the world, as we come out of the gripping effects of the Covid pandemic, it is a Kairos moment. It is a moment of unique opportunity. God’s Spirit is doing something. And we – well, we want to pay attention, to pray and listen and see what God is saying and doing and join in. The Archbishop of York has been operative in forming a new vision for the Church of England which is Christ centred and Jesus shaped – simpler, humbler and bolder.
In this Kairos moment, in our church we are not going to jump back to doing all the things we were doing before the pandemic. We are listening. The PCC, Ministry team and Life group leaders have started a process by forming lists of the ten most important questions we should be asking. Now we are engaging with these questions by listening to a wide range of people both in and outside the church.
As we look forward, we will be taking with us some of the things we used to do, and we will be learning from the lessons we have learnt during Covid. For instance, we adopted the hashtags “the church is not the building” and “the church in the community” as a taskforce of 84 people was formed in a matter of days to serve people in lockdown. The church has realised it has a vital and welcome role in the community among those in need and just our ordinary neighbours.
While we have missed worshipping in the building together, our faith has been enriched by worshipping at home, out in the countryside etc. and we have seen that the church is the people who have called to see how we are, offering to pray and caring for us. We hope that a transformation is taking place, so we no longer say “church is a place I go to” but “church is a community of people I belong to and I will contribute to its future”.
What sort of church do we want to be?
What sort of church does God want us to be?
Our Vision: Taking our next steps towards deeper faith in Christ, welcome and belonging and shining God’s light continues to provide a framework as we look ahead.
We are painting a picture here of how we could be using the three parts of the vision.
Deeper faith in Christ – We want to be a church:
- Who are Jesus centred and prayerful.
- Who love God and encourage one another, both young and old to grow in our faith as disciples of Jesus.
- With confident young people.
- With joyful children.
- With flourishing families.
- With supported seniors.
- With accessible worship for everyone.
Welcome and belonging – We want to be a church:
- Which is a real loving, caring, supportive, praying community of God’s people – like a family.
- Whose giving supports and drives forward an ambitious mission.
- Whose buildings are adapted to serve both our worship and our outreach.
Shining God’s light – We want to be a church:
- Living out the five marks of mission and excited by God’s mission.
- Seeking ways to reach out to our neighbours and schools in our town.
- All involved in serving our community with strong links with local organisations helping those in need.
- Seeking ways to bless and partner with other churches.
- Who are open to planting new congregations to reach more people in the parish.
- Who are generously giving to God’s wider mission in the world.
I hope this is an exciting and inspiring possible direction of travel. Is this the church you want to be part of? I hope so. We have already started work:
We want confident young people – the PCC have stepped out in faith on behalf of the church and have agreed to take on a 50% youth minister – can you contribute prayer, money, and time for this?
We want joyful children and flourishing families – the Children and families discipleship team are engaging with creative possibilities for the future – can you contribute prayer, time, money to this?
We want supported seniors – the Connections team are considering ways forward – can you contribute prayer, time, money to this?
We want accessible worship for everyone – we are engaging with Racial equality and Living in Love and faith material – can you contribute prayer, time, money to this?
We want to be a church who value one another as a family. Can we have the best Stewards and Welcome team ever? and the greatest coffee and chatting time ever! – can you contribute prayer, time, money to that?
We want to be a church whose giving supports and drives forward an ambitious mission – we are launching the “Giving Project” – can you contribute prayer, time, money to this?
We want to be a church involved in serving our community – we are starting a Toddler group for families in the St John’s area and stepping up our links in the community– can you contribute prayer, time, money to that?
This is a start. It depends on us. This is OUR church.
We are very blessed here in Walton-on-Thames. We have so much to be thankful for. We are so grateful for every person who already contributes generously in prayer, serving and giving to God’s work in church. May we particularly mention our musicians this year – James, Carol, Berenice and Kate and our Ministry team of John and Tessa, Alex, Caroline and Vlada (since he arrived in September), Nick, Andrew, David, Berenice and the children and families discipleship team: Katharine Scott, Amy Maddocks, Helen Duke, Clare Rolton. It’s always dangerous to start to mention names, so I will stop with one more – Sally Eckes, whose role has become Operations Manager as well as Communications Director, without whose technical expertise we could not have produced all the virtual worship we have this year. We now need to build a tech team to help her!
Sadly, we will have to say farewell to Alex and Katy in July. This is not a farewell speech, but I want to encourage you to make the most of them in the next three months they are such great examples of Christlike lives, genuine relationships, loving care and passion for the gospel. We are so grateful for all they have brought. God has called them to a very blessed parish in Blackburn Diocese.