In many ways, it is hard to believe it has been a year already! But, in other ways, Carrie and I feel so much a part of this Church, that we have so soon become family.
I have spent quite a bit of my time this past year doing the following:
- Giving good attention to Sunday meetings and preaching
- Spending time with staff, doing some team building, and recruiting a full staff team
- Gaining an overview of everything that happens in the life of the Church
- Seeing as many congregation members as I possibly can (Tea with the Vicar)
I am very aware of coming to a busy Church, and one which, over the years, has had a good evangelical ministry. I also realise that the busyness of our Church means we shouldn’t keep adding more activity without reviewing what we are doing, and why we are doing it. (Everyone is open to that conversation so long as I don’t touch their particular area of passion!).
And now, the conversations I have with you are less, “When did you arrive?”, and more, “Well, Simon, you’ve been here a year: what next?!” It is a good question, and having spent time looking at how the church operates I feel I am in a better position to reflect on some of your comments:
It’s a fair comment. The Christ Church congregation has been larger in the past. On a good Sunday, we are currently 300 adults and children, spread over three services. It is encouraging to see some growth this year. We are on the cusp of “big Church”, and because we have been bigger, there is a sense in which some programmes and courses we run cater for a bigger Church feel.
We have a great, hardworking staff team. If you visit church midweek you observe how busy the offices are, preparing for Church events other than the services themselves. We hold Parent and Toddler events, the Good News Café, Children and Youth Groups and Bible Studies, as well as Committee meetings and subgroups. We host a steady stream of activities from local community users. In addition, we maintain two graveyards and “hatch, match and dispatch” people (Vicar speak for baptisms, weddings and funerals!). All of this necessitates a plethora of electronic and papers communication, and personal contact.
One year ago, I asked the PCC to allow us space to grow into our structures. If the Church does not grow, then we might need to rethink sustaining a large staff team. However, there is growth, and every expectation to anticipate more! We are mindful that the generosity of congregational giving enables us to staff the office, employing key team members in every area of the Church life. Please know that the staff feel their job is not just to work in ministry for the Church, but, also, to train, enable, and resource the the ministry of the entire body of Christ. This has been the theme of our Sunday sermons over the last four Sundays of September (catch up with a sermon you might have missed here http://www.cc-vw.org/churchbuilder/medialib.php
Pastoral Care… Young Families… Seniors… Home Groups… Serving…. And more…
It is a long list, of course! Every area of the life of the Church needs attention.
I often use the example of my Tropical Fish Tank. It is a delicate eco system, needing regular attention. They need feeding; the climate and temperature of the tank requires monitoring; they only survive if you put community fish in the tank; and if you don’t feed them, they either die or eat each other. There are some similarities with Church life!
My hope is that we continue to work away at all of the areas mentioned above, without also losing focus on the Church life ministries which are already well resourced. Please watch out for emerging plans for all of the above.
Much work has previously been done to produce Vision Statements. I am positive about these, and the 2020 vision contains many good things. I haven’t want to spend my first year rewriting this statement. More of my time has been spent observing what is going on and getting to know you better.
The strap line “Knowing Jesus and making Jesus known” is a helpful summary of all that we seek to do here. It needs to be worked through into every area of the life of the Church, and we can set specific targets as to how we achieve that. The PCC have recently set up a new subgroups (including “Evangelism and Social Action” and “Hospitality”). The hope is that these, along with existing groups (Buildings, Fabric and Grounds, Finance, HR etc.) will help put flesh on our vision.
The PCC will hold an away day together, in January. We will pray and plan for the future: particularly for the Longcross Development, and our hope to also grow our work in other parts of the parish.
With respects to the Longcross Garden Village, I have spent time with Crest Nicholson (the Developer), other clergy and Diocesan planners, and a consultant group who are seeking to hear the requirements of members of the community. Plans are moving along, slowly, but we are excited about the potential of future work here.
Here are some exciting dates for your diary
November 25-26. We have invited Prof John Lennox to speak at breakfast on Saturday 25 Nov. His subject is “Can Science Explain Everything”. Please think about who you can invite to this event. Tickets will be on sale shortly. On the Sunday, at 10:30, he will preach on “What’s wrong with being religious?” (Acts 17:16-34). Again, please use the flyers (available shortly) to invite friends.
December 16 We are delighted to have J John preaching at both our Carol Services (16.30 & 19.00). J John is a funny and gifted evangelist, usually speaking at big stadium events, such as the Emirates. We are planning for big crowds, and may issue free tickets to manage numbers. Again, please think about who you can invite. If you do not know J John, HERE is a brief glimpse of him in action.
Building Works (Phase One)
I am grateful to the BFG group, led by Kevin Gallagher, for their persistence in working with our architect, and producing a great set of floor plans for the Church entrance area. The PCC has given the go-ahead to take this to the next stage, namely a full set of plans and costings. The purpose of this building work is to increase the number of toilets by 100%, to provide office space and a further meeting room, to deal with the inadequate glass entrance area, and to improve access to the Church. We will display the plans at the back of Church shortly.
Tea with the Vicar continues
So far, I have met with about two thirds of the congregation. Those who have seen me will attest, I think, that they are non-threating chats about Christian life and membership of the Church (and the tea is not bad either). I will be continuing these during this term. Primarily on Thursday evening and Saturday mornings. Please drop Sarah Banks a line to get in my diary ( )
Assuming you have got this far, thanks so much for reading this letter, and for your patience! We continue to enjoy very much your friendliness, fun and fellowship,
Yours in Christ
Simon and Carrie
If you would like to receive Simon's letters via email please contact Sarah .