VICAR’S REPORT to the Annual Parochial Church Meeting (24th April 2016)
In so many ways this has been an exceptional year for All Saints’ Church … exceptional in terms of the variety and scope of the various ministries that have taken place. Anyone reading the reports for the APCM cannot help but be impressed by the very significant ways we look to show God’s love to our community and to each other. It has also been exceptional in the amount of change that has occurred over the last 12 months. This time last year I was giving the vicar’s report on behalf of Ian Parkinson who was away on sabbatical, this year I give the vicar’s report as vicar. So much has changed and, importantly, so much has stayed the same.
Significant Goodbyes …
There have been lots of goodbyes! Last May at Pentecost we said an emotional goodbye to the Perrins as they took up their post in Hollingworth and Tintwistle and it has been encouraging to see already the impact they are having on the new communities in which they serve.
Just last Christmas Christine Blodwell who was effectively Priest in Charge of St Paul’s Strines also retired from ministry after fourteen years. I know her ministry was greatly appreciated and is missed.
Last January, just after New Year, we said goodbye to Ian and Nad. There were squirrel outfits, Nerf Guns and blond wigs which were all such fitting ways to say goodbye. However, I think it is again only fitting that we publicly acknowledge and thank Ian and Nad at this, the APCM, for their diligent leadership and servant hearted ministry that they modelled so well to us.
Ian Parkinson always spoke about his ministry here as something he did standing on the shoulders of those that had gone before him and I recognise the great privilege it is that I have been commissioned to lead All Saints’ forward built on all the strong foundations that have already been put down, as well as keeping our eyes firmly fixed ahead on Christ. As Ian was leaving he asked the PCC to reflect on the words from Joshua 1:1-9 and it is to these that I turn to help us to reflect where we are now.
In many ways Joshua was called to live out the promise that was established through Moses’ leadership. Similarly, I feel in the next season ahead we are called to live out the promise that has been established through what has gone before. The core values and priorities reflected in our Mission Statement of Growing Community, Living Live and Meeting God are as intrinsic to our DNA as they always have been and need to continue to find expression. Significantly, however, when Joshua was asked to take on the leadership of the people of Israel he was asked to lead the community across the River Jordan into new ground, the Promised Land. I believe this is particularly relevant for us as we move into a new season. I believe we as a church and we as a people are being asked to take new ground and do new things as we follow Jesus.
Growing Community …
As I reflect back on last year there is so much we can be thankful for as a church as we have been able to engage so positively with our community. Through many of our regular ministries such as PlayAway, Evergreens, Little Ark, Who Let the Dad’s Out, many people are able to experience a community with a difference … a community that carries the light and love of Christ. Likewise in the way we serve our community, through activities such as The Pantry, The Job Club, HOTS and being an active member of the Marple Business Forum, we show very practically the love of Christ to others.
It is exciting to see new ground in this area being given to us quite literally in the form of the CONNECT building. Already we have seen new ways of being God’s community there and it is wonderful to read about Playtime in the APCM reports. I am very excited for the future of CONNECT and long to see how God helps and shows us to use the building to share our lives and blessings with others.
In the area of growing community it also important to be aware of the new ways that have been established for working with the community. Many of our folk are members of Marple People and the Marple Time Bank – One Good Turn. Although these are not specifically run by All Saints’ Church they are significant new ways in which many from our church are serving and blessing our community.
Living Life …
The Bible says: ‘Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples.’ John 13:35. In such a busy church we must never lose sight that a key part of how we share our faith to others outside the church is by the way we show love for each other. In other words the journey we go on together and the way we show love by working together is often just as important as any outcome.
It also means our pastoral ministry and how we care for each other is a significant witness to our locality. Many have drawn support through the bereavement team and Meals for Mums. The Pastoral Prayer Team and SOZO have continued to minister to a variety of people bringing significant breakthrough and healing whether that be physically, spiritually or emotionally.
One of the key ways in which we try to live and share our lives together is through our Life Groups. This year Life Groups have been a significant place where people have found mutual support and encouragement in living in a Christ-centred way. They continue to be a place where strong meaningful relationships are nurtured and people are cared for. They are safe places where people can be open with each other about their faith and at their best reach outwards to make known the love of God to others.
Meeting God …
Our primary purpose in all that we do is to connect with the presence of God. This is why in our Sunday worship we want to provide people with opportunity to encounter God through our sung worship, Bible teaching and prayer ministry. We depend on the ministry of the Holy Spirit and want to consciously welcome Him to move in our lives and transform us. We long for the presence of God to influence our workplaces, our families our friends and all that we say and do.
It has been an incredible privilege and joy to see two people baptised after this year’s ALPHA course and we long to see more and more people touched by the transforming power of Jesus. We believe that we are ambassadors for Christ and therefore carry His presence out to our community. It has been wonderful to hear news from the HOTS team as they look to share the presence of God on the streets. Likewise it has been encouraging to hear how Lesley has been working as a town centre chaplain.
The Easter Encounter was also a wonderful space for people to come and engage and encounter God in a new and meaningful way.
Looking Ahead …
Our year ahead will be challenging. We will need to raise up and support new leaders across all our worship centres. I am thrilled that Craig Silcock will be expanding his role as youth worker with us and that Phil Harris will be taking on the primary leadership of GLO church in Offerton. In the Joshua passage the words, “Be strong and courageous”, are words that echo out to give us confidence. We can be strong and courageous because God promises to be with us wherever we go to be with us in whatever we do. For our part we need to be open to the challenge of loving and following God with all our heart. I am so thankful for the staff team, preaching team, LifeGroup leaders and many others who exercise Godly leadership in this church and I am confident that God will continue to lead us to be fruitful in the building of His kingdom. It is a pertinent reminder with the London Marathon taking place today that we remember that this task is a marathon and not a sprint.
I conclude this report with these words from Hebrews 12.
‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.’
Every blessing in Christ,