Sermon/ Address 2015 APCM
Reform and Renewal in the Church of England
We have three very clear objectives at St Andrew’s Church, set through the PCC-led consultation last year, to focus on Prayer, Teaching, Children and Young people. These objectives sit alongside the
diocesan mission of worshipping
God, making new disciples and transforming communities. The Church of
England is finding a new sense of direction and purpose, under the leadership
of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Archbishop has focused in his reforms on
growth: spiritual and numerical and the directing of resources to the most
deprived communities. National funds will be directed to dioceses for these
mission priorities. The reports are clear that decline will not be subsidised,
only targeted mission work and innovation; in the same way, wealthier
communities will be expected to resource themselves. At the same time more
resources will be targeted at the most deprived parts of our country. This
seems to me to be very necessary and appropriate reform. For us to thrive in
such a national and diocesan environment we too need to be directing our
resources towards innovation in mission as well as towards the most deprived
part of our parish. Under my leadership
the PCC will lead on those priorities in 2015: for growth in our hearts, our
minds and in our Christian community; for targeting our resources towards the
most deprived. It is a deeply Christian and contemporary response to our
mission situation – we cannot hide from the Bible imperative to communicate the
Good News; nor can we hide from the Biblical bias to the poor. Each generation
has to work out how to do that in a way that the contemporary culture can hear.
Churches across our country are exploring ways of doing just that. So, for
example, at Liverpool Cathedral, alongside their Choral Eucharist on a Sunday
morning, they host Zone 2. An informal, all age service, starting with coffee
and breakfast, they are engaging a new generation of people, young and old, who
have never before connected with the Christian message or tradition. It is
about recognising that the needs of life long Christians are going to be
different from those who have never even before heard the Gospel message, let
alone worshipped on a Sunday morning. Coventry
As a church over the past year I have been encouraged by this church’s willingness to embrace a new way of doing things in order that more and different people might learn about God’s love. For example, the Family Service has been very well supported by our team of volunteers- through it we are learning what it means to be childlike, to be simple, to nurture our faith, and that’s for the adults just as much for the children.
There has also been the Julian meditation group on Wed lunch times, a silent prayer group that is attended by regulars as well as by those who don’t attend on a Sunday. Tuesday Communion is growing as a body of people, learning in faith and fellowship. Our ministry to those at home through regular home communion, prayerfully and compassionately done by a group of volunteers is also another vital part of our work. Bible classes run by Matt in the Barbershop have also enabled this church to support the spread of the Gospel into the lives of people who would never normally come into this environment.
Looking ahead in 2015 we are very soon going to be training a team of lay chaplains who will be helping us as a church realise our vision of being there for our visitors. They will be the friendly and prayerful face of the church, outside of Sundays. Alongside the ministry of hospitality we practise through the café, their more specific role will enliven our desire to be the presence of Christ in this place.
This year we have said goodbye to the Hope 4U cafe, for the past ten years this church has given to that charity an enduring gift of place. Now we need to think again about how we can continue to give to and reach out to the neediest members of our communities.
The PCC has also been continuing it focus, which began in the Interregnum on ensuring the financial sustainability of this church, whilst focusing on mission. There is still much to be done in that direction, but to increase giving (both from planned giving and voluntary collections) by £15, 000 over one year is a great sign of the faith of this community. For us as for the wider church, structural and financial change will not in themselves lead to spiritual transformation, but they are the necessary groundwork for our common calling. That common calling is what draws us together. Which does not mean that our mission or role is narrow or unified: we show strength in diversity, in allowing others to do things we don’t want to do, by being generous in our vision of what it means to follow Christ. Through listening to one another in love we enable our church to grow and thrive. Last year the PCC ran a consultation to decide our mission priorities; this year we are asking people to come and discuss in more detail our worship life with a particular focus on music.
Reform and Renewal, the Archbishop’s priorities are there for us to engage with. As a church at the centre of town, offering a cathedral-type ministry to the whole town, our opportunities remain vast. In God’s love and strength, we will grasp them. At the core of any spiritual renewal is prayer and the Archbishop has been using this prayer as he sets the priorities for the Church of England. It is on your notice sheet. Let us pray it together and keep on praying it:
Give us grace and strength this day to build up your church in love for the world,
in the making of disciples and to equip the saints for the work of ministry.
Plant your hope deep within us. Open our eyes to a fresh vision of your kingdom.
Give us wisdom for the common task. Draw us and all your Church deeper into Christ,
our foundation and cornerstone, that we may work together as one body,
in the power of the Spirit and for the sake of your glory. Amen.