This week we celebrate Harvest. Unfortunately, we are not able to get totally interactive but this Sunday’s all age presentation will hopefully catch your imaginations. We will be collecting ‘harvest’ produce for the Community Emergency Foodbank as well as the Cutteslowe Larder. A table will be situated outside church before and during the 10am Sunday Eucharist. Please leave any non-perishable foods on the table and it will be bagged and delivered for you.
Next week (11th October) all those on the Electoral Roll are invited to attend the church’s Annual Parochial Church Meeting (APCM). This meeting was deferred from earlier in the year as a result of the lockdown. The purpose of the APCM is to review the past year as well as to elect churchwardens, welcomers and PCC members. Although the meeting is necessarily about governance, procedures and finances, it is also a great opportunity for people to share their thoughts and passions. The APCM provides the forum for new ideas as well as to show gratitude to those who have helped in different areas of church life. This year, for example, we will say thankyou to Doreen Barrett who is retiring as a churchwarden after several years in post. Doreen has been a constant help from counting money and bums on seats to overseeing the reconditioned altar frontals and banners. She has been a great help and support to me (and many others). It was also great to see Clare, our curate being ordained priest in the Church of God and to see her ministry flourish this last year.
We hope that as many of the congregation as possible will remain in position after the service so that we can conduct the APCM – which we are legally required to convene – as efficiently and safely as possible. To help us do this, if you have a question that you would like to raise, please email me in advance. I hope that we will be able in due course to arrange a parish meeting unrestricted by Covid-considerations when we will be able to explore together mission and ministry matters in a more nuanced way.
I have attached the agenda, last year’s minutes as well as the financial report. Please read, mark, learn and inwardly digest this information! The other reports will appear in next week’s blog. In terms of my own report, I would like to share some thoughts about what this last year has revealed to me.
Covid-19 obviously takes centre stage. This invisible, malevolent virus has caused such heart ache and misery. No one has escaped – it became a pandemic affecting the world’s population and broke our rhythms and structures: our normal. Loved ones had to die alone, funerals were – and still are – limited to a handful of mourners. Weddings were not permitted and then allowed but with prohibitive restrictions. Baptisms were deferred. Sunday worship became a trial of video technology and internet connectivity. Trying to be practical, we created the rainbow cluster network. This was a response to ensure that parishioners would not be isolated, that those shielding would be further protected by another layer of care and concern. Coordinators had the responsibility for the 10-12 people in their cluster. This wasn’t a neighbourhood care scheme, this was simply a way of keeping people in touch with each other and with the church. Sometimes prayers would be offered, an online sermon recommended, or an invitation given to the virtual world of Zoom – in particular, Coffee after Church on Sundays (11.30am).
All of these offerings are the ingredients to what I describe as pastoral glue. Each parish church is in a privileged position to offer this glue to its friends and neighbours that make up the parish. The Anglican Church thrives within this parish model. As a priest, I serve the parish and not the congregation. There is no sense of ‘in’ or ‘out’ according to your Sunday practice. Every parishioner is the same – a child of God. Some know of this relationship while others might be seeking it and still others oblivious to the possibility. They are all parishioners and all of them share the glue. During the lockdown I became very aware of how people of faith and none grew in relationship with one another. Strangers became known; neighbours became friends; the fit and feisty helped the shielders and the wise tutored the confused.
As a parish priest, I was not in much need – the people were doing it for themselves! Good job too, I was sick with Covid, literally, and needed to take time out myself. My illness passed but the effects of Covid on our parish and across the world remains. We are now suffering in a deep-rooted recession. Job cuts, financial breakdown in households, corporations and nations will surely result. The vulnerable continue to be vulnerable while the guidelines and advice from centralised bodies and brain trusts continues to confuse and confound.
But questions repeatedly stir within me about your faith, your enquiry into God, your spiritual devotion, your love of life? Does your parish church encourage and empower you in your Christian discipleship? What about the children’s faith – how can that be better nurtured? Have we completely forgotten a generation of people from 18-40? What do we need to do to provide enough glue for a healthy inter-generational community to flourish?
These are my thoughts as we continue to battle against fatigue and disillusionment. Perhaps our faith can be used as a sword and a shield? We have much to be grateful for but we should be realistic about future uncertainties. A regular deficit of £3000 per month is proving to be a huge concern for our church. We have lost income from hall rentals as well as cash on the Sunday plate. We will not be able to sustain these losses without an uplift in stewardship and giving. I will focus upon this area of concern next week. It will only take a small percentage increase by those who already give or the uptake of new regular givers to halt the decline. What is at stake – a parish church which lies at the heart of community, supporting life events, music and the arts, sports and hobbies, a forum for questioning, for curiosity, a place of sanctuary and care. Without the church we lose the glue of community cohesion. I think it is worth the investment!
Regular stewardship Standing Orders
It costs approaching £450 per day just to keep the building and grounds going and well maintained, and we are very dependent on goodwill offerings and donations.
Here’s how you can help us financially —Transferring directly into our bank account is the most efficient for us and, by using your online banking, this is usually straightforward and leaves you in complete control. No need to give your private bank details to us or any external organisation — just give your bank our bank details. You can change the amount at any time using your online banking, or visiting your local branch. Our bank is CAF Bank:
Account: St Michaels & All Angels Summertown
Sort Code: 40-52-40
Acc No.: 00011607