Don’t just say it, do it!
Next year, 2014, is the Centenary of the Diocese of Chelmsford and in his infinite wisdom Bishop Stephen has decided, with the agreement of his Diocesan Synod, that every parish in the diocese is to celebrate this by holding a mission weekend. In pursuance of which each parish is being encouraged to try something that (preferably) they have not done before as a way of reaching out to those around them.
As an idea it is linked to the Five Marks of Mission that have been a key point of the Anglican Communion for many years and also to Bishop Stephen’s initiative for the future of the diocese, ‘Transforming Presence’. For those of you who do not have the five marks of mission permanently etched into your memories I have reproduced them here for you. (Even I had to look them up to make sure I got them right).
To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.
To teach, baptise and nurture new believers.
To respond to human need by loving service.
To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation.
To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
It is Bishop Stephen’s intention to visit every deanery in order to give some training on holding such weekends, and he is coming to Havering Deanery on the evening of Thurs 28 November. In each of his suffrage areas he has appointed a mission advisor to ensure every parish takes part (“Resistance is useless”, as the Daleks like to say) At the P.C.C. meeting that we held on June 26th we discussed our initial response to this decision and decided that we would hold our mission weekend over the second May Bank Holiday weekend, more commonly known as Whitsun.
Our ideas are very much in the early stages but centre around the idea of an Open Weekend featuring a ‘Super Saturday’ with not just our own stalls, but stalls from all our usual charities, as well as from our uniformed organizations and other hall users, the Rush Green Regeneration group, our Primary School and indeed everyone who is involved in our community. In addition we propose to invite all our local shops to either be present or to take an advert in a specially produced magazine about our church and our community (to be distributed throughout the parish). Some of you may remember that many years ago we had just such an occasional production called (I believe) ‘On the Green’
Over the weekend itself it has been suggested that we hold a flower festival in the church as well as, some short impromptu organ and other musical or choral recitals. Members of the church will be available to answer questions about the church and selected members will also be available to talk to and pray with anyone who wishes to do so. The Saturday event would start at 11.00 hrs and run primarily for 3 or 4 hours, though we would have the church open until evening prayer at 18.00 hrs.
On the Sunday Mass would be at 08.30 hrs and at 10.00 hrs (or it could be a bit later) we would have a celebration and thanksgiving service for both our Diocese and our mission as the Parish Church of Rush Green. We have yet to decide whether this would also be a Mass or whether it would be a more praise (Hymn) orientated service; again the church would then remain open until Evening Prayer at 18.00 hrs, possibly sung and possibly with Benediction.
Now these, I must stress, are the thoughts that we are working on, it is not impossible that things will change as we move slowly towards the actual day itself, indeed if you have an idea that could expand on our thoughts or even replace them with another idea completely then I and the P.C.C. want to hear from you. There is no doubt that what we are proposing is ambitious, it will require a lot of effort from
all of us and no doubt a fair bit of sacrifice as well, but then that is something that as Christians we should be no strangers too.
Talking and writing about this is the easy bit, doing it will be the hard bit, after all talk is cheap. It was very much in our thoughts, at the PCC meeting, that we wanted to be in control of what happened rather than having something imposed on us of which we had no control and which might actually run contrary to what we are already doing so successfully.
Compared to many churches around the country we are very fortunate in that we are growing in size and are starting to attract many new people, especially younger families. It was with this in mind that I decided to try re-introducing an earlier Sunday Mass, as you probably know by now this is initially going to be on the first Sunday of each month at 08.30 hrs starting from September, though I am open to other Sundays if there proves to be a need in the future.
This is not intended as a way of splitting the church and indeed I will not allow it to do so, nor do I intend that it should become a ‘niche’ service as it is in some parishes, where the eight o’clockers have a Book of Common Prayer Holy Communion Service and the ten o’clockers have the modern service and never the twain shall meet. Our strength lies in the fact that we are one family within the body of Christ and that we meet and worship together around the altar.
The idea behind this re-introduction is to enable those who might not otherwise be able to get to church on that Sunday to be able to do so. In our modern world we have to accept that the country does not almost shut down on a Sunday, the shops now open and many other activities once prohibited on the Sabbath are now common place. You and I might regret this turn of events, but we cannot ignore them and as a priest I cannot condone keeping people from the opportunity of receiving the sacrament just because I’d like a lay in (note from Mrs. Vicar, Is that some kind of industrial action in a hen house because it’s never about him staying in bed!)
I have been talking about doing this on and off now for some time, but have always been told by people who I thought might find it of benefit that it would not actually help them in their own situation. However, in truth if I do not try then I will never really know. If just one person comes who otherwise would not have been able to make their communion on that Sunday, then it will have been a success, after all remember who it was who said that “when two or three are gathered together then I am there”.
Another thought that I have talked about in the past and have quite literally just discussed with the Worship Committee (July 9th) is that of having a regular monthly service of Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament. We have always held such a service, coupled with Evening Prayer (said or sung), on the Sunday at the end of the Christmas season and also on Easter Sunday, now we propose to have such a service on the evening of the third Sunday of each month as part of our regular offering of services.
To some this service is a bit of an acquired taste as they feel that it is a little to close to the Roman Catholic Church, however it has been fully accepted within the Church of England, especially the Anglo Catholic part, for many years. It has certainly been a part of our parish’s regular spiritual life in the past given that the necessary equipment was already here when I came some 10 and 1/2 years ago now.
It is rightly said that none of us knows the future; I have in the recent past written and spoken about how things are likely to change in our Deanery and Diocese, based on what is known about our future clergy numbers and the proposals of ‘Transforming Presence’. The idea of an outreach weekend and the proposed extra services are a part of our response to those challenges and begin to put into reality the words that have been said. I very much doubt that this will be the end of things, more likely this is but the start of the start!
God Bless you all.