2017/18: A year of pilgrimage
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”….. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”. [Jeremiah 29: 11 & 13]
When we were planning for 2017, we did not know that our vicars, Simon & Louise Moore, would be leaving us this year. Just as they are going on a pilgrimage to a new calling in St Helens, we believe that God is calling St Paul’s on a pilgrimage in which we each commit to spending more time with God in quiet and reflection and in which we can also enjoy the company of each other through serving Him together on our journey into a deeper relationship with Him. Recognising God’s blessings in 2016 has created a tremendous sense of expectation for 2017 and this has not been diminished by the news that our much loved vicars are moving on.
We have identified two key challenges as we embark on the next stage of our journey.
- As we grow, we need to become more intentional about how we build relationships throughout our church family and embrace newcomers and longstanding members alike in hospitality and love – going deeper into God’s love through hospitality to others.
- Whilst we balanced our budget in 2016, the increase in giving has been outpaced by costs beyond our control. We need to make ends meet in 2017 and beyond. We also want to involve more people in supporting the many aspects of church life. And so, we believe that God is calling us to deepen our generosity, using more of our gifts and skills and money to better resource His work in St Paul’s.
This was an amazing year, in which God fulfilled his promise to us that it was to be a year of spiritual growth, focusing on Jesus. We thank God for the growth in numbers of people joining our church family and in the depth of spirituality and friendship over the last year.
- Many more people in the church have joined together in triplets to pray
- We have celebrated several baptisms of adults, young people and children
- Relationships with one another have grown stronger through our many social events, especially our church weekend away at Letton Hall and our mission trip to Bradford
- We have come to know each other better and had fun as we have worked together serving our community at events such as Fun Day, Who Let The Dads Out and Christmas/Easter Journeys.
- Our Junior Church has continued to expand and God has called more people to support this important work with our children and young people.
Where there is no vision, people perish; but blessed are those who heed God’s instruction. Proverbs 29:18
Our sense was that we are called to be ‘A LIGHTHOUSE FOR THE COMMUNITY’ A place of security and stability, built on the rock that is God. A place that reveals the light of the presence and love of Jesus to the community. A place that gives direction, guidance and purpose though the power of the Holy Spirit.
As light defines Jesus (John 1:4-5) we are called to walk in the light (1 John 1:5-2:14) and to give this light away (Matthew 5:14-16) to the community we live and worship in. This will be done as we go out into the locality as people demonstrating God’s light and love in words and action (Matt. 28:19-20).
Without vision we may lose our way. Although we know where we are, we can’t map out the journey ahead unless we know where we’re going. Whether we are 5, 50 or 95 years old, our vision statement should give a purpose for being a member of St Paul’s church. It points to what we feel that God desires us do, and addresses the question of what we will become. Associated with it are values that we need to affirm and develop.
Over the last 5 years we have been listening to God, to you and to the community around, prayerfully discerning the future vision for St Pauls.
Primarily this is about forward thinking and feeling our way into the future and not dwelling in the past. Where should we be in 5 and 10 years time, and what legacy will we leave for future generations?
This process of listening began when a parish profile was collated in 2009 for the forthcoming interviews for a new vicar here. We described ourselves as
- ‘a very busy church, trying as best we can to follow God’s will’
- but ‘needing spiritual growth’
- with ‘an ageing congregation’
- ‘not being representative of our community’
- and ‘needing to demonstrate God’s love to the community’.