Rector’s reflections Autumn
Rector’s reflections (Autumn 2019)
At the time of writing this reflection our parishes are in Harvest Festival mode with churches around the benefice celebrating the cornucopia of food that our natural world produces. Our services are an opportunity to thank God for His abundant provision and to support others, both near and far, who are less fortunate than ourselves. Paul puts it this way when writing to the church at Corinth:
And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. (2 Cor.9:8)
It is as we recognise that we are merely stewards of God’s goodness towards us that we honour God for his divine provision and use it for the good of all, especially those at the margins of our society.
As many will know the church calendar is somewhat different than the Gregorian calendar, which begins on the 1st January (New Year’s Day). The Feast of Christ the King (24th November) fast approaches and marks the end of the liturgical year. So it is perhaps appropriate to reflect on our spiritual journey over the past twelve months and highlight some of the key events for which to give thanks to God, and to anticipate (God willing) those that the next year might bring.
We have much to thank God for in the last year. There has been considerable numerical growth (by C of E standards), with an additional 14 regular worshippers across the benefice, which continues the upward trend of recent years. We give thanks for all those who God sent to us and now consider one of our six churches to be their spiritual home. Some are new to faith whilst others join us as well established Christians with many years of faithful service behind them. All are welcome in Christ’s name and we look forward to your ongoing integration into this part of His body.
On the administrative side it has been great to have Mel join us in the parish office to work alongside Susanne and Kath, and Hilary has also agreed to provide a small amount of clerical support for me as my PA which started in April this year. Their tireless work and ongoing commitment to the smooth running of the parish is greatly appreciated, as is the service of all our Church Warden’s and other church officers across the benefice.
There have been a number of ‘start-ups’ over the year. Breakfast with God is now well established and continues to see young families join those from our regular Sunday congregation who have decided to commit to and support this missions venture. It has gone from strength to strength and now has anything up to 50 people in attendance. Thanks to Gareth and the team of helpers who make this service such an accessible and pleasant experience for all.
A similar service has been introduced to Ogwell parish and whilst attendance has been somewhat patchy, we trust that in the coming months we will establish a consistent group of young families who see this as a natural place for them to worship together in a context that meets their needs. Again thanks to all who enable this to take place.
I was particularly pleased that we were able to support the No hungry Holidays project throughout the school summer break. Fr Nick was involved in setting up and co-ordinating the project and the screening done by the office in anticipation of the night shelter project was invaluable in providing people who were already DBS checked and therefore able to engage safely in this service to vulnerable families in our community. Thanks again to the office for all their administrative support.
In rounding off the year, it was a delight for Nick, Gareth and me to join others from the benefice at Exeter Cathedral for Michaelmas ordination of Gerda Van Ommeren our ordinand, and to pray for her as she begins her diaconal year with the parish of Goodrington. It was also great to celebrate 50 years of priestly ministry for the Revd Preb. Alan White at St Mary’s, Abbotsbury for the Feast of St Michael and all Angels. The £250 given on your behalf by the PCC is a small token of our appreciation of Alan’s ministry over many years.
Considerable work has been done on the fabric of various churches throughout the benefice. There is the conclusion of the works at St Luke’s Milber, the replacement and refurbishment of rain-goods at St Bartholomew’s Ogwell, St Mary’s Wolborough and St Mary’s Abbotsbury. As well as the refurbishment of the Wolborough organ, the replacement of the Church towers wooden vents and the partial rebuilding of the churchyard boundary wall at Ogwell. Thanks to Fr Nick and the Church Wardens of the various churches for commissioning, co-ordinating and overseeing this process. Thanks also to the trustees of the Wolborough Ecclesiastical Charity for their considerable and generous grants in support of these various projects.
Looking forward, there are a number of things that I would like to highlight. Firstly, the imminent pilgrimage to Walsingham led by Fr Nick. I trust that all those making this pilgrimage will encounter God in a new way and see their spiritual journey deepened and enlivened by the experience.
The anticipated launch of the Night Shelter which will take place in January 2020. So do continue to pray for Gareth and the eighty or so volunteers who have offered themselves to support this much needed facility for the homeless in our town. It has been a long but necessary process of preparation with training and checks being delivered/carried out to and on all the volunteers for the project.
I continue as Rural Dean to support the clergy and churches throughout the Deanery. This has meant quite a lot of work covering churches in their vacancies, both Ipplepen benefice and the Three Wells Mission Community have been without a priest during my time as Rural Dean. Ipplepen have now appointed the Revd Andrew Down and the Three Wells MC (Kingskerswell, Abbotskerswell and Coffinswell), are hoping to appoint ta priest in the near future.
The Deanery Synod is working on a new deanery plan which you will hear about over the coming year, with members from our three parishes able to contribute to and shape its final version. This will look at ministry across the deanery and explore how the various benefices can help and support one another in their mission at a time of diminishing resources in terms of stipendiary posts and the challenging contexts in which we work.
PCC’s have kindly agreed for me to take a Sabbatical after Easter 2020 and therefore I will be out of commission for three months beginning on Easter Monday 13th April and ending mid-July 2020. They have also provided financial support for my sabbatical of £1,000 and I would like to record my deep appreciation of their generous gift.
I will be visiting our link diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf during this time as a guest of the Archdeacon of Cyprus (the former Archdeacon of Exeter), The Venerable Christopher Futcher. I will visit Cyprus, the UAE and hopefully Oman during this time and will be focussing at how these churches, in what are sometimes very difficult circumstances, use hospitality to further the mission of God.
In closing I would like to highlight two other significant events in 2020. I have just offered a title post to enable a curate to join the benefice in July 2020. It is anticipated that he and his family will live in the Vicarage in Ogwell and will be with us for up to 4 years.
Finally, don’t forget the Holy Land pilgrimage in November 2020. We have 22 confirmed pilgrims so far but there is still room for others to join us. Do contact me if you would like to know more.