The last year has been an incredible busy one both in the life of this Parish and for me as your Vicar. Somewhere back in the dim and distant past of last April both Veronica and Cathy suggested that we ought to hold a regular meeting so that we could keep up to speed with everything that was happening. It was and indeed is an excellent idea that somehow just never quite managed to become a regular, diarised event. It was nearly always a case of brief conversations after morning service or at the Saturday shop, doubtless it was probably my fault, so to them I say sorry and I will try to do better.
The growth that we have experienced in the last year is a testament to the hard work that so many of you have put into the life of our church and the very friendly way you welcome visitors. It was said to me a few weeks ago that one of the nicest things about coming to St. Augustine’s was that you were accepted immediately and were welcomed into joining in with everything that we do, unlike some parishes where for the first year or more you were virtually ignored and were not allowed to do anything. Yet again this year we have met our monthly commitment to the Diocese and even put something back on reserve after we had paid all our other bills
I suspect that there is not now one of you who has not heard of Bishop Stephen’s plans to invigorate the diocese through the discussion document ‘Transforming Presence’ and its related proposals. For us this has seen the introduction of some of you leading the intercessions at Mass. It is meant to have seen you leading the reading of the epistle and psalm at midweek services, though I have to say that most of you seem generally rather reticent about volunteering to do so. Doubtless this is a reflection of the fact that it not seen as the ‘catholic’ way of doing things, whereas an evangelical colleague was recently complaining that he hardly ever got to do anything at a service as the laity wanted to do everything. Well I suppose the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
Seriously though we do have to start looking at a greater involvement in those parts of the service that are not required to be lead by the clergy; going forward there are going to be less and less full time stipendiary clergy such as myself and those that we do have are all going to be looking after more than one parish. Transforming Presence opens the discussion on various ways that clergy and Readers as well other lay ministers might be deployed, nothing is yet decided but all things are open to consideration.
In the last few months you will know that locally St. Andrew’s, Romford from which we ourselves were a church plant has now been put with St. Edwards and is to have a Team Vicar who will serve under Fr. David (Vicar of St. Edward’s) and also be the Town Centre Minister. St. Nicholas’, Elm Park is now classed as a house for duty parish as is the Ascension, Collier Row and St. Mary’s, North Ockenden (these two events took place several years ago now).
So do I know what the future holds for us? Simply put, the answer is No. There are many ideas floating around and I am certainly involved in the discussions at a local level, but the fact that we are in growth and have consistently met our parish financial targets over the last few year’s means that we are not considered in need of urgent action, unless of course they want to try and add to my workload. A thought that makes me grateful that I opted to retain my freehold as it means I have the right to refuse. Frankly I am not sure where I could fit in anymore work let alone taking on a second parish. A new site is all due to come into our parish, as is the development at Roneo Corner and possibly part of that along Crow Lane. Thus the parish of approximately 8,500 souls that I took on nine years ago now will grow to at least 12,000 and most likely more. Consequently I will not just need all of the help that I get from Fr. Mervyn and Joan Cotton, but from some of you as well. Please therefore pray for God’s discernment in your lives and if you feel that you may be being called to a more active role in the life of our parish, then come and have a no commitment chat.
At this point it is, I think, only right that I thank Fr. Mervyn and Joan for all their help, prayers and support. They may not think that they do much, but I honestly could not cope without them, especially as I often wind up on short notice cover at the Queen’s hospital and where there will shortly be a vacancy in the already over stretched regular team.
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. Of special note this year though is the fact that both Mary and Doris have decided to stand down from the PCC. I shall miss them both greatly, as I have come to value Mary’s pithy comments and occasional miss hearing of where we have got to in the meeting and Doris’ help and advice, especially given that she was one of the two parish reps who appointed me to this living. Yes it’s Doris you have to partly blame for my coming here nine years ago now. 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!!! In the last twelve months we have had the pleasure of sharing Vicky and Mark’s wedding with you and now by God’s grace we hope to share the baptism of their first child.
These, it is true are family events, but all of you are a part of our family and so we feel it is only right that you be there with us.
On the subject of maintenance we had our church quinquennial inspection last summer (five yearly inspections) and the building was judged to be in a good state of repair and decoration. My thanks for this must go to Mr. Maintenance (he did not want to be named) and to everyone who pitches in from time to time with extra cleaning or grounds work.
Looking forward to the coming year we know we have some very interesting challenges to face. The events taking place around the world are likely to continue to have an effect at national, regional and local level, causing yet more problems with fuel and food prices.
The departure of some clergy and laity to the Roman Catholic Church last year and of some more this year will continue to impact on us at Diocesan and local level. This July should see the General Synod vote on the legislation to create Women Bishop’s, an innovation in the body of Christ that may well result in problems and departures if proper provision is not made. The current debate raging in the press over ‘Gay Marriage’ is likely to cause further division. The end of the Freehold system about which I wrote in last year’s report has, as predicted, meant that clergy are less inclined to move causing a certain amount of gridlock in some places (if you move you lose the right to a freehold if you currently have one).
On the subject of our outreach our churches involvement on the governing bodies of both Rush Green Junior School and Rush Green Infants Schools respectively continues to be 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. I cannot express too strongly how important that it is that we continue to be outward facing in our mission and ministry to this community
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.
Those of you who were at the meeting will have heard our Treasurer, Geoff, say that he will definitely not be seeking re-election as Treasurer next year.
We have less than a year to find a new Treasurer, especially if they are to be ready to work alongside Geoff when the new Church Financial year starts in January 2013. Please pray for God to reveal a new person to us and if you feel it could be you then please chat to Geoff and to myself.
Training is available via the diocese as this is a very important position which we MUST fill in order to comply with our charity status and indeed just to pay our bills.
May God bless us all on the journey ahead.