Thursday, 18 June 2015

Winter Newsletter 2015: Article

Dear Friends

As always, time seems to move forward far faster than it possibly should! Winter is upon us, marked by late rains in June; half the year has passed and yet seemingly only just begun. Since our last Newsletter we have journeyed through the Seasons of Lent and Easter, entering now into the extended Season of Sundays after Pentecost that will take us through Winter and Spring and into early Summer. In terms of Church activities, Lent was marked by our Parish Camp in early March and our Lent Course that focused us on the Apostles Creed, asking us to reflect on the relevance of ancient beliefs in our 21st century world; the Season of Easter was marked by The Marriage Course.

The Parish Camp

This was a really good time away together, and my thanks to all who were able to join us. There was lots of time for fellowship and relaxation together. We did spend some time, though, applying our minds on the Saturday morning to Acts 2:42-47 while reflecting on the theme "serving each other; serving the world". We drew on the links between teaching,  fellowship, the sharing of meals, and prayer in terms of serving each other;  and on signs and wonders, the sale of property and possessions, giving to those in need, and generosity in terms of serving the world. Out of these reflections we moved into discussion groups, which highlighted the following as needing to be priority for us at St Andrew's:

Priority One

Preaching (the present quality and variety was affirmed); Home Groups (that the present Groups should be supplemented with new groups, for which leaders need to be identified); Young People (identify needs, create opportunity for volunteerism, and explore a supper club)

Priority Two

Regular multi-generational "Coffee Afternoons"; teaching on Contemplative Prayer and on "Being Anglican"; Newcomers (create room to be involved beyond the superficial); Programmes (Alpha, Renew, The Marriage Course, etc)

Priority Three

Worship (forms of worship, a review of service times, opportunity for quiet); Men's Breakfast; Ministry to The Needy (fewer, bigger projects with more opportunity for active involvement); Prayerfulness (prayerful support, being a "voice of hope"); Evangelism Training (how to market our community, attract visitors to belong; impact on our communities for Christ)

Parish Council has noted these priorities, but the key to implementation is finding people who will have the passion and time to help further interrogate, and then implement, these priorities in practical ways.

What of the above has warmed your interest? If you are sensing a gentle pressure from the Holy Spirit, please come and chat with myself, or a member of Council, or a Layminister,  and we can explore this prompting further. God generally prompts more than one person, so while one needs to take that step of Faith and speak to someone, often God already has a partner lined up. But you'll never know if you don't ask... and I look forward to a conversation with you.

The Marriage Course

You may have noted (above) that one of the items noted under Priority Two in our group discussions at the Parish Camp were programmes such as Alpha and The Marriage Course, both of which have their origins at Holy Trinity, Brompton, in the UK. Just as the Lent Course was an offering to us during the Season of Lent, so The Marriage Course has been an offering to us during the Season of Easter. The Easter Season reminds us about the essentials of our Christian Faith (death, resurrection, renewal), and The Marriage Course likewise does this in terms of our marriage relationships (the essentials of strong foundations, artful communication, resolved conflict, the power of forgiveness, the impact of wider family past and present, good sex, and putting our love into action).

Nine couples participated this year, and all completed the course strengthened in these essentials. Dawn and I were privileged to be able to participate (and I must admit to Dawn being keener than I was to start with). I must also admit to being surprised! It really was good, and enabled us to talk through numerous aspects of our relationship in a fresh and life-giving way in our twenty-fifth year together. And, of course, the weekly suppers... delicious!

This course took place (and will again next year, hopefully) because of Graham and Margie Michael's passion and commitment to facilitating this ministry. And also due to their willingness to draw others into the team (Waitrons Richard & Debbie Emery, and Edgar & Beryl Ruiters). My thanks to them all for their gift of ministry to us. And they are not alone in setting this example.

Participation

One of the huge challenges any volunteer organisation faces is ensuring people always feel welcome to participate in leadership and facilitation spaces, and the Church experiences this, too. I encourage you to look around: how often do familiar faces reappear in different settings at St Andrew's? There is comfort in seeing a specific face at the altar, then in the kitchen,  then on Church Council; but is it good for us as a community? There is a danger that we rely on the goodwill of the few, and take their availability and passion for granted. Or, as in the case of the Layministers, for example, there seems to be a large group, but we forget that there are five services a week at St Andrew's and not all Layministers are available all the time, or during the week, due to work or travel or illness.

A number of our coordinators and facilitators of key ministries have indicated a need to step back after numerous years of active and faithful service, but Council is finding it difficult to identify people willing to accept appointment. Among others, we are looking for new coordinators for the Morning Market, Children's Church, and Flower Guild. We're needing to grow the Layministers team, find additional Children's Church teachers, Home Group leaders, flower-arrangers, people to serve tea, sidespeople, readers. We need to add to our team of available people to help with various Ministry to the Needy projects, and people to participate in the Fundraising Committee for our new building project.

The temptation is to see people busy and active and involved and to say either, "They don't need me!" or, "There's no space for me!" I wish to suggest that neither statement is ever true... we need your participation, and we need more than just your help (although help is valued). If I may be so bold, "participation" is about being proactively willing to either lead or support depending on the need; it is about taking "ownership" of our community life. The nature of the Church (in the broadest sense) is that even if you don't belong, you do!

What are your gifts? What are your interests? What is your passion? How can you participate in the St Andrew's call to serve each other  and to serve the world?

I look forward to our next conversation, you and me.

Love and Blessings
Mark

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