Today I was made a Vicar for the first time!
Ok, that might sound strange but until now I was licensed as ‘Priest in Charge’ of the churches and the diocese decided that it was time to install me as a proper ‘Vicar’. What’s the difference? Well, that’s a good question and I don’t completely understand the answer! But what I do know is that it brings confidence, security and acknowledgment that we have something good happening in our churches. God is working though us in remarkable ways, and I used this morning to celebrate that and chart our journey together so far. If couldn't make it this morning, I also wanted to share a a part of that here.
Our lent readings this morning contained Jesus’ invitation to ‘take up your cross and follow me’. For those first followers of Jesus, it could have meant literally that. The danger in following Jesus was very real and did have fatal consequences for many. It’s a timely reminder that following Jesus is not always easy, even if we don’t have to put ourselves in mortal danger to do so!
Our journey for the past three and a half years has sometimes been tough. We have created many new connecting points for many people to once again feel that church is relevant and meaningful for them again. However, in doing so we have had to stop some things we had being doing for many years and by focussing on mission it has meant that some other things have not had the attention they might have once had. When we celebrate what God is doing amongst us, we should also acknowledge and take a moment to remember that it has been hard sometimes, and it’s needed an immense amount of energy to get where we are now today.
Where are we today? I think our churches now have something that everybody can connect with in some way. families@4, The Sunday Breakfast, Cornerstone, Taize are just a few examples of alternative services that are now the biggest services of the month. Our churches have grown, and we have been blessed in so many different ways. It has also meant we have suffered a few ‘growing pains’; growth has not always been in the way we have expected, and it has put additional financial and resources strain on us.
But we cannot get away from the fact that it has been an enormous answer to prayer and we have been blessed in so many different ways. God is Good!
So what about the future, in years to come?
It is clear that we are building for a new generation in our churches, and it might not look like the generations that have come before. Therefore, we need to continue to spot areas where we can connect with people whilst remaining flexible enough to adapt things if we need to as God is working among us. We are, after all, joining in with what God is already doing in this place.
We also need to help each other on this journey of faith. That means talking about it at every opportunity, being honest with one another, building relationships. We have small groups running for bible study, prayer and mutual encouragement and it would be really great if you could be a part of one. We have a big weekend coming up in September where we are getting all our churches together at Lee Abbey.
What we have re-discovered is that it doesn’t matter where you feel you are on this journey of faith, when we get together in a room to share the highs/lows and difficult questions everybody learns, and everybody is blessed. There is no greater feeling of joy than getting together to pray and support one another in our daily walk with God.
The service today was an lovely example of how, when we come together God can do great things through us. I am really excited to see more prayers answered and spending the coming years with you on this journey.
And THANK YOU.
With much love,