"Serving each other; serving the world"
On Saturday 30 August 2014 thirty-two St Andrew's Church members met to workshop together around our vision for who God is calling us to be as a Christian community in the wider Newlands context. This group was broadly reflective of the Parish as a whole, with each of our three Sunday congregations well represented.
While acknowledging that possibly our biggest strength is our outreach programme via Ministry to the Needy (MTN), feedback from our group discussions highlighted the need for "inreach": a need to caringly reach out to each other that we may then reach out to the world as an engaged, inclusive and welcoming community of Christian disciples.
We recognised the need to build on our Anglican identity and tradition, acknowledging that who we are today as St Andrew's Church is built on the legacy of those who have gone before us over more than a century. Additionally, we recognised that there are aspects of who we already are that we wish to preserve: our three Sunday services with their varied focus; our Ministry to the Needy (MTN); the various Home Groups; our intercessor prayer ministry; our fellowship activities (the St Andrew's Amble, Shrove Tuesday Pancake evening, and our Curry Supper) and tea after our services; the Morning Market; and our strong revenue stream.
Importantly, we noted a number of things we would like to see enhanced or added to our Church life with a focus on creating opportunities for broader engagement and participation by all who belong to, or seek to join, our Christian community here at St Andrew's. This requires a loving, caring and non-judgmental space where people of all cultures are able to grow as disciples of Christ and in width and depth of Faith. In this regard:
- Become a "24/7 Church", not just a Sunday-focused Church. Our building plans are important here, as they will offer us greater weekday access to our Hall and other facilities.
- Strengthen and expand our Home Group structure as a primary space to belong, where caring relationships can be formed, ministry encouraged, and Faith shared.
- Include our children and young people more fully in our worship: have them begin in Church before going down to Children's Church and Teen Church; provide opportunities for participation in music; develop a Servers' Guild.
- Build relationships through fellowship: a regular (quarterly?) combined morning service; review service times to allow for tea after the early service; and weekends away together.
- Provide opportunities for Spiritual development: revive courses such as Alpha, Renew, the Marriage Course; have regular Quiet Mornings; and build prayer partnerships.
- Create focus groups for Mothers and Toddlers, and for those who have been divorced or bereaved.
- Be more intentional about the Sunday evening service: vibrant music and liturgy; outreach to local schools and the university.
- Consider supporting a mission worker.
- Develop an "Info Central" around our website so that information about our various activities and community life is easily accessible.
We also reflected on what we wish to eliminate from Church life. This included the noise the Children's Church make coming for Communion, cliques, judgementalism and negative criticism:
- In terms of our children, there is an excitement about coming in for a blessing or to receive communion, and after the long trek up from the hall, that excitement is difficult to contain, although the teachers do their best to settle them down at the door (another reason why our Building Project is so important); our children need to feel welcome, and some noise is unavoidable!
- One is rarely aware of being in a clique. The best way of ensuring one's friendship group or Home Group doesn't fall into this definition is to be constantly on the look out for those on the margins of Church life, and invite them in. It can be educational to occasionally step out and view your group from an outsider's perspective.
- Criticism can be positive and valuable. We wish to avoid criticism that is judgemental and destructive.
In closing we noted that we wished to avoid the following: losing our Anglican identity; losing members through lack of caring; burnout of the few due to underinvolvement of the wider Church membership; complacency (especially in terms of our Dedicated Giving); and lack of follow-through towards engagement of new members.
Moving forward: we need your input! Please give comment on the above as you may have a perspective we did not consider at the workshop. How can you do this? A conversation with a Churchwarden or Parish Councillor, or the Rector; an email via the Church Office; a comment on our Facebook page. It will also be helpful, if there is any area above that excites you, that you indicate your willingness to be part of a team that develops that specific area in our Church life.
A concurrent process alongside this opportunity for further comment, is the review of our mission statement, the defining of our vision, and a list of priorities in terms of the issues identified at the workshop.
And finally, please hold the ongoing process in prayer. We seek to be about God's work and the purposes of God's Kingdom in our world. It is critically important that our mission, our vision, is aligned in this way.