The Vicars yearly report
Vicar’s report- Annual Meeting 2011
Though the last year was extremely hard work, putting into effect so many of the things we had planned the previous year, we can look back on 2010 with great gratitude and satisfaction. The congregation of St. Luke’s are a wonder of love, kindness, prayer and committed action. So many of you are practically involved in serving God with your time, energy and money, in such a way that should give us great confidence and boldness for the future.
In particular, the team leaders have settled into their roles and shown exemplary commitment to their tasks. Time and again little jobs which could be neglected and ignored are done with diligence and joy. As their reports go with this, and effectively tell the story of the past year, this report focuses on the future- where are we going?
Since the patronal festival of 2010 we have been considering prayerfully the mission task of “taking the good news of Jesus to every person in Grayshott in the next 3-5 years in an attractive and intelligible manner”. The PCC will make a final decision on this at the July meeting, but for now we should understand how this fits with God’s already declared will, and what we can see of what God is already doing to bring it to pass. Jesus left us with the great commission in Matthew 28: 20: “Go and make disciples of all nations”. Jesus told his disciples at His ascension to go and be His witnesses in Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. For us this means Grayshott, Britain and overseas. Jesus urged his disciples to start in Jerusalem, where they were, and so this is where we should start- in this village. However, doing mission trips abroad is greatly beneficial because it takes us into places that we are not familiar with, and therefore have to think in a fresh way about what the good news is, and how best to share it. Taking this fresh thinking back into our home situation will then be fruitful. The parish system of the Church of England tells us that the souls of Grayshott people are our responsibility before God, so there is plenty of evidence that St. Luke’s goal for the next 3-5 years is that which God has already revealed in scripture and tradition.
Is there evidence that God is already at work on this plan? Consider the following:-St. Luke’s has become a very well organised church, with strong prayer and pastoral care. It is therefore ready to focus on its outreach. It has built a good reputation in the village, and many church members play a significant role in village life through BIG, Grayshott Concerts, the Day Centre, PIG, GSN, EGG, PO carers, the pantomime, Rezurgence, Scouts, the cricket club and probably almost every village organisation. God works through these natural friendships and human connections, and we have an abundance of them. 2 initiatives are planned for 2011 which have roots in St. Luke’s - 2 Doors Down and the “Sunshine in the Square” project. Both of these enhance the possibility of people finding out more about God through St. Luke’s people. The new website is an attractive portal for those who live through a “virtual” existence. The Holiday Club has had several highly successful years and at the end of 2010 we have seen an explosion in the number of children who have begun to attend St. Luke’s. A Junior Church register of children in November 2008 would have had only 11 children on it. At the turn of the year, there were 40 names on this register. Yes, God is being given room to move in many, many lives, and perhaps the most exciting signal from 2010 is the handful of people who have come to Christian faith from outside the church through the Alpha course. 2011 will see a group of adults being baptised, and several testifying to the renewal of faith through the repetition of their baptismal vows.
How can such an ambitious plan, to take the good news to every person in Grayshott, be achieved? Only by prayerful listening to God and following His instructions. This takes us back to the personal challenges of the Patronal festival. Can you remember them? If not, you can’t be working on them! The first is to learn to enjoy prayer so much that we delight to spend an hour alone with God, enabling Him to speak to us. Only when we know His instructions can we follow them. The second is to articulate prayerfully the good news for 3 people close to us, using simple, attractive and non-religious words. The third is to cultivate an attitude of heart and mind that takes the knowledge we have of God from the hidden (buried?) depths of our hearts to the tips of our tongues. On May 19th there will be the first planning or brainstorming meeting on this project, and I hope many of you will come because we each have a part to play in this. Sometimes the most ordinary of our gifts are the ones that God chooses to use- we do not need to be superstars or highly gifted to be used by God. I believe this good news project should be at the heart of every church, and be at the heart of our plans to be repeated cyclically until it is accomplished. We may not get it right first time, but in the mercy of God we may have opportunity to try again and again until we can achieve it.
An annual meeting is an important time to ask, “Are we making progress?” “Progress in what?” should be the reply! What is our main task? Last year we described it as helping each other progress from being seekers to disciples to servants. We are certainly being given the opportunity to help seekers become disciples. Almost every Sunday there are people giving St. Luke’s a try. We began keeping records at staff meeting in August, and I have the names of 63 people who have visited St. Luke’s for worship since then, and I have had positive indications from 32 of them that they intend to come at least monthly to St. Luke’s. We can see something of the effect of this in the growing electoral roll numbers.
It therefore feels slightly disappointing to look at the attendance records statistics which show significant growth only in the choral evensong attendance. It would be interesting to hear your views on what these statistics mean. What they are conveying to me is that we are achieving the first part of Christian mission extremely well, attracting seekers, but finding it much harder to help them become disciples. Alpha has played a fabulous part in beginning that process, but the next stage is for home groups to become vibrantly active in developing ways to grow. There is the potential for each group to double in size in the next year from these figures alone- is your group making those plans?
Another possible factor mentioned to me in the last year by a mission expert is that we have greatly damaged discipleship by multiplying our monthly services. The Sabbath is a weekly event given to us by God for our rest and refreshment through prayer and worship. Monthly services often tell this story- “I go to church if I get my style of worship” and I only go when “they” provide what I want. This is not Christian discipleship but religious consumerism. We are entitled to express our preferences, but we are exposing the shallowness of our love for God when our preferences become the determining factor of whether or not we come to worship Him. At St. Luke’s we are so fortunate in being able to put on a traditional service and a more modern one every Sunday so there is really no excuse for any of us not to receive the gifts of God every week, and to learn either to be flexible about when we worship, or in what style. It seems that we have a long way to go in understanding just how much God wants to give us with the result that many continue to neglect weekly worship and the fourth commandment.
The greatest challenge in taking the good news to every person in the village will be our teenagers, perhaps 200 of them. Few of us have meaningful relationships with this group, and there remains no viable work with young adults in the village. Not surprising given our demography, but quite surprising when we consider how able we seem to be at solving all the other problems. There is a small group of people praying monthly for God’s direction in this area. We are not (yet) hearing any suggestion from God that we should employ a youth worker, but it is hard to envisage any kind of significant, viable, long term youth work without one. We will continue to wait on God.
Our financial strategy at St. Luke’s as far as giving is concerned is to talk about money twice a year- at the Patronal Festival and at the annual meeting. Last year saw a tremendous response to our first gift day, and we are seeing a slow growth in the number of people giving regularly and in a Biblical proportion to their income. Many others give generously in different ways, and there are signs of a generous spirit growing in the congregation. On one weekend in the early part of this year a substantial gift was given to a family in need by a member of the congregation, and 2 significant gifts were given to replace the New English Bibles with a more recent translation. God has made an abundantly fruitful universe and delights in giving without measure. The clue to our giving is to learn to trust God with our money, and to become as St. Paul who learned to be content with both plenty and little. God has given many in Grayshott abundant resources, and the question He will ask of us will be: “How have you blessed others with all that I have blessed you with?” The real point of our giving is not to keep the church standing, but to enable the church to move out in blessing.
Following Jesus is a great adventure- sometimes it feels as we are on a tightrope with no safety harness, but in fact God’s hand is always keeping us steady, and is ready to step in when we let go and fall. 2000 years of Christian progress show us that God’s plans are not frustrated for long, despite all the efforts of His enemies. The power of His death and resurrection continue to sustain and grow His church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against us. Thank you for the privilege of leading you for another year, and I thank every one of you for the contribution you are making to the kingdom of God.
Thursday 21st February, 2019
11:00 am - 11:45 am
Sunday 24th February, 2019
9:00 am - 10:00 am
Sunday 24th February, 2019
10:30 am - 11:30 am
Sunday 24th February, 2019
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Thursday 28th February, 2019
11:00 am - 11:45 am
Sunday 3rd March, 2019
8:30 am - 9:15 am