Vision / Reflection morning June 2023

Twenty people from St Mary’s Church gathered in St Mary’s on the morning of Saturday 10th June to review and reflect on our shared Vision, Values and Mission. What follows is a summary of Stephen’s input, together with some visuals used, followed by contributions from those present. Do get in touch if you want to offer your own reflection on our vision, values and mission.

Part 1 ‘Big picture’:

An opening Bible passage:

Bible Reading –  Ephesians 1: 1-2, 17-19.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[a] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

  • The Story so far of what God has been doing

During the last 7 years we’ve been able to create an accessible flexible space – this is ‘Church the building’ – we’ve restored or installed the windows, bells, heating, chairs, tombs, lights and sound, Then there’s ‘Church the people’ – We’ve weathered the early Covid storm by adjusting things to continue as a worshipping community. We’re looking to grow our fellowship in this place through different events and the new kitchen. As we take stock there are two helpful questions we might ask – Are we growing?, Are we healthy?

First the growth question which has three dimensions:

 – 1. Breadth – our numbers. We are back to near pre-covid in-person numbers, with others online. but attendance is perhaps not as regular.

 – 2. Reach – our effect on the village. We continue to connect in with various groups, as individuals and as a Church, We are seeking to bring blessing and transformation.

 – 3. Depth – our growth as disciples. We have a home group, alpha annually, other courses being run, and some accessing courses in other places.

How about our health? Again three dimensions could be identified:

  • 1. Worship – how we connect to God as a Church,  in ‘Church Music Quarterly’ Stephen Hance tries to identify the ‘secret chord’ that Leonard Cohen references in his famous song ‘Hallelujah’. Hance likens this to Music and Mission, a chord that can unlock hearts in a way other ways cannot, He says ‘through music, the Spirit of God invites us further on and further in, no matter what our starting point’ and then he also talks of a need for variety and accessibility. Notice it is not actually just one secret chord, but actually 4 chords in a sequence, that bring variety and connection, this is about Unity – not uniformity, – I’ve interpreted what we do in this way: – (Rewritten verse referencing our different worship services such as 8am, 930, 10, @11, Evensong, Forest Church and Wellspring.)
  • 2. Fellowship – how we connect to each other as a Church community, it happens informally and formally, in Church, at home and elsewhere. We hope that the new kitchen will enhance this here and inspire us to invite others to share fellowship with us.
  • 3. Mission – how we connect to the wider community, and to the people and in the places where we find ourselves between each Sunday. There is a collective and an individual aspect to this. It is about sharing the love of God and message the Gospel, bringing the blessing and transformation where people are, rather than looking to fill the Church on a Sunday, although that can be our prayer too.

At this point I want to reference the Church of England’s Vision for the 2020s – which focusses on being a people who are ‘Christ centred and Jesus shaped’ and highlights three key values….another three words: Simpler, humbler, bolder

Being Simpler (not being simple!) is about simplifying structures and processes for the central church etc, but also recognising that we can over complicate our message and our lives, often urged on by the world to add more and more activities to our busy diaries, in case we miss out… it has been wisely said: ‘Simplified living is about more than doing less. It’s being who God called us to be, with a wholehearted, single-minded focus.

Being Humbler is about recognising our place in Christ’s church, we are not the only church in town and not the dominant force the CofE was in the past. We need to recognise our failures and limitations as a church, how to live within our means, and make good use of all our abundant resources – especially the time and talents of our amazing congregations.

Being Bolder is about sharing more confidently our message of good news that, through us, God seeks to bring relief and release to those in pain and confusion. The national church is making a stand on eco issues and there may be local issues where we can be bold and proclaim God’s love and grace to our community.

Following from that author and Church of England priest John McGinley, in his book ’The Church of tomorrow, talks of a need for reformation and restructuring in a new era: Coming back to a simple, humble, yet bold faith that involves: acknowledging Jesus is Lord of all our lives, depending on Holy Spirit to strengthen and guide us, and to grow in our knowledge and confidence in the Gospel. 

McGinley encourages the Church looking into tomorrow to be a place that seeks to grow internally, through disciple-making and grow externally, through church or congregation planting. In all this he points to the importance of a diverse leadership, a focus on seeking to be Holy People, and for the overarching Priority to be prayer.

All in all I think we are moving in the right direction as a Church, but it is good to have a re-assessment of who we are, and where we are going. 6 years ago we set out a Vision, values and mission statement that looked at who we were as a Church, and also what we aspired to be.

Next we read through our 2017 Vision and Values statement in groups:

Part 2 ‘Making Jesus known’

– Our new Diocesan strap-line is ‘Making Jesus known’, there’s not much detail yet but I wonder how that resonates with our values and mission?  Coming back to our Vision and Values – the PCC spent some time looking at this and beginning to generate some new phrases, linking to the old but taking out things that were not thought to be needed and added in things that might have been missing. I’d like us to continue that journey now. The original was generated by people writing out 3 phrases to describe us, and the one aspirational description. So do look to make some statements aspirational.

  • Welcoming – Offer a Warm welcome and prayer for all
  • Learning – Share fellowship as disciples, taking God seriously whilst not taking ourselves too seriously
  • Stewarding – Be stewards for today, honouring creation and our heritage
  • Sharing – Share hope and love through making Jesus known in our community 
  • Connecting/Blessing – Connect with and pray for people near and far, guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit

Part 3 ‘Tact and Tactics’

Bible Reading –  Ephesians 4.15-16, & 3.20-21

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Another book I’ve been reading to prepare for today is ‘Failure’ by Bishop Emma Ineson, (I actually gave it to Carrie as a Valentine’s present! (and she gave out back to me at Easter!!) It is a helpful read that drew on the humility I mentioned earlier. It set out the need for us to recognise that we are what McGinley calls a creative minority. In terms of looking forward for Vision and Mission Ineson recognises that whilst strategy is key when in a position of power, the truth is that what works when in enemy territory is tactics, and tact. Yes we have Christs’ power on our side, but we have to use this wisely and tactfully. Thinking about being under enemy rule I was reminded of guerrilla warfare and mindful that in our own village we have the Guerrilla gardeners who arrive, transform and then disappear again.  Perhaps our goal can be something like Guerrilla Christians, bringing transformation and blessing that points to God, not us. (Perhaps a more biblical image of being the leaven or yeast in the dough.)

Bishop Emma also makes another really important point, that how we do things matters more than exactly what we do, our priority should always be to grow in relationship and share compassion.

I mentioned the C of E The CofE vision has three priorities: for the Church to be:

  • A Church of missionary disciples
  • A Church where Mixed ecology is the norm
  • A Church that is younger and more diverse
  • 1 Being Missionary disciples is about learning and sharing, growing deeper in our faith, and looking to connect with others beyond our Sunday gatherings. Holding to what we know is true – that God loves us, and that Jesus has enabled everyone to receive that love, and that the Holy Spirit reminds of that love. We have so much to share with others, in terms of prayer, music, service, welcome, companionship, community, worship, knowledge and expertise etc. all these can be missional as we seek to bring an non-anxious presence into a world full of worry.
  • 2 Mixed Ecology is drawing on the different chords of the Church that different people can engage with, or to look at it another way this is different plants that emanate from the Church community. In the past our model was like a huge oak tree which sustained different eco-systems within it’s branches, roots and leaves. The picture now is that some Oak trees still flourish, but others have withered, or have not enabled other types of plants to grow in the shade of the canopy where water is drawn down to the roots. Perhaps the metaphor of breaking up the soil in order to plant new seeds is applicable, or watering something that may be a little dried up. Mixed Ecology is describing the Church planting different seeds or seedlings, away from the Oak tree, perhaps in the meadow or in other environments, perhaps working with new partners in new areas and in new ways- remembering not to be consumer-led but Spirit-led. Using our imagination to be inspired.
  • 3 Being younger and more diverse is a challenge that involves looking practically at the youth and diversity we have, and is around us and looking to see how we might make the most of the opportunities that arise. This may start with our own children, grandchildren, younger relatives and friends. Or it may look at the opportunities that we have as a Church to connect with the parent and toddler group, uniformed organisations, school, youth groups.

We discussed how we might set a course as a Church, looking at some suggested actions fro the PCC and adding our own. We also added our names if it was something we thought we could be part of.

Here are the suggestions:

Potential Action priorities:

  • Value all who are part of different organisations in the village – find out what people are involved with and pray for them and their witness. Value ‘being Jesus’ with others outside the church. Visible in the community – not always in a fundraising capacity
  • Regular Eco-activities
  • Encourage a ministry for young people, some kind of Youth input – linking to Youth hut project
  • Develop whole Church lunches for fellowship, family suppers for possible outreach or weekend breakfasts
  • Midweek event – perhaps in youth hut
  • Enable different congregations to get to know one another.
  • Men’s shed group (Youth hut?) doing workshop activities
  • Connect to support school choir 
  • Big questions club at primary school
  • Big read – a Christian book club that meets in pub
  • Coffee and walk – an open group to walk from cafe or home
  • Church/Churchyard history – one-off talk or tour 
  • Connect to other missionary events around the world
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