A.P.C.M. 2011 – Vicar’s Report (with extra bits).
I must begin this year’s report with a small confession, namely that I hate having to write it. I nearly always wind up saying the same thing as the previous year, only in different words. Also I nearly always forget the one thing that I really wanted to say, however since I have to say something – here goes.
To begin with, a huge vote of thanks to Fr. Mervyn for stepping in as our Organist when Jon went into hospital last year and indeed a big thanks for doing so again this year. Additionally my personal thanks for his being an ever present and supportive colleague in a time of great change within our national church.
Next then, a thank you to Cathy Cooper and Veronica Vernon-Penrose, who as your Wardens know the real meaning of having a cross to bear, because they have me to put up with. Between them and with the support of the rest of the PCC they have overseen the maintenance of our buildings and grounds, and have been represented at virtually every service, health and holidays allowing.
After them must surely come my grateful thanks to both the PCC and indeed my family. I think I say something like the next couple of bits every year because it is the truth and I cannot think of any other way to put it. Firstly, then to the PCC members – no one on the team gets an easy ride. From grounds maintenance to social events, from cleaning brass to washing plates, from the cut and thrust of a good debate to the mind numbing tedium of some of the complexities of Diocesan regulations everyone plays a part and I am eternally grateful to you all. Secondly, a big thank you to Jan and the family for putting up with the stranger who occasionally sits down to meals with them when he is not locked away in his study muttering strange threats to his electronic nemesis or rushing out the door shouting bye, can’t stop I’m late for another meeting!!! This is even truer than ever at the moment as we get ready for a
certain (family) wedding in just a few weeks time now.
Most year’s I start my report by saying what a hard year it has been and how the next one will be even harder, there can be no denying that such a statement remains true in the current world economic climate. What is equally true though is that, as a worshipping community, we have grown quite substantially in the last year; our electoral roll increased by over 10% last year and is growing again this year. We met our monthly commitment to the Diocese and even put something back on reserve after we had paid all our other bills. The launch of the Short Mat Bowls group on some Tuesday afternoons has furthered our outreach and the increased number of sessions being held by the Phoenix Preschool has pushed our term time use of the hall to almost its maximum capacity. Sadly this has meant that I am actually having to turn groups away as we cannot physically accommodate them.
Looking forward to the coming year we know we have some challenges to face. The church building is due for its five yearly inspection (the quinquennial) and it is anticipated that we will be told to decorate the nave and sanctuary, a job we cannot do ourselves and which is likely to be very expensive. The events taking place around the world are likely to continue to have an effect at national, regional and local level, causing problems with fuel and food prices.
The departure of some of my clergy colleagues and laity to the Roman Catholic Church (the Ordinariate) will have an impact on us at Diocesan level and undoubtedly create pressures on the family purse in due course. The continued need to reduce full time stipendiary numbers and the end of the Freehold system are probably going to mean that clergy are less inclined to want to move and that the demands on them are going to increase.
The proposed Havering Deanery Plan, currently with Bishop David, has implications for us as in Rush Green in the first instance
it will increase the size of the parish to nearly 13,000 souls (currently we are about 9,500) and in the longer term it may well see us take on some form of responsibility for another parish.
Speaking personally for a few moments I must state for the record that I have absolutely no plans to move on from Rush Green for at least the next five years, I firmly believe there is still a huge amount of work to be done in this place and that you are the people to help me do that work in God’s name.
Our churches involvement on the governing bodies of both Rush Green Junior School and Rush Green Infants Schools respectively is much appreciated by both the staff and Barking & Dagenham Council and provides us with another means of outreach into the community as does my continuing involvement with the Queen’s Hospital Chaplaincy Team. The Public Spending Review initiated by the Coalition with its resulting cuts in funding are affecting the full time chaplaincy team as much as every other service.
The same can also be said of the Air Training Corp, where I serve (in a voluntary capacity) as the London Wing Chaplain to over 30 Squadrons, each of which is meant to have its own chaplain. Currently there is a 70% vacancy rate which I am trying to get filled with the co-operation of the Bishops of Chelmsford and London, but the cuts have meant a freeze on the normal re-imbursement of incurred expenses without prior approval and for some reason that seems to be putting colleagues off of the idea of volunteering to help out.
One of the greatest strengths of our church family here at Rush Green is its commitment to outreach into our community. It is vital that we continue to interact with the secular world around us, to remind it that there are Christians alive and well in this place and that we do care passionately about building the kingdom.
The Saturday Shop is a major factor in that work. It is true the cash it generates is vital to us achieving our financial targets, but
the opportunities to just meet and talk to others and share a cuppa with them are what makes it really worthwhile and has brought many into a closer understanding of God. Why some of you are now regular members of the congregation.
All visitors to our church or its activities need to continue to be made to feel welcome and valued, just as we ourselves like to feel to be valued, to this end I hope that all of you who work in our name and especially our sidesmen and women will continue to do your duties in the same excellent way that you have done this past year.
The future holds many challenges for us as individuals and as a part of the Body of Christ here at St. Augustine’s, if we are to continue to bear fruit for the good of the kingdom we will all need to keep on pulling together, both spiritually and, at times, physically. Like any family, we will have our moments, but it is how we deal with those moments in love for each other that will mark us out as His people.
It cannot be denied that we are very fortunate in having a number of young families worshipping with us, so that we are not just a crowd of ‘God botherers waiting for the call’, but a living breathing community of worshippers. I do not think there can be anybody in our church who does not know how much joy I have in seeing those young faces suddenly appearing in different (unexpected) places during our services. Jesus had to remind his disciples that it was to the little children that the kingdom of heaven truly belonged, you and I have the truth of that before our eyes every week and we should be ever grateful for it.
There is much more that I could say, but I’m sure I can feel my stomach rumbling for its dinner so may I close by saying how much I value your support and prayers and assure of my prayers each and every day for all of you.
May God bless us all on the journey ahead.