Vicar’s Address to the Annual Parochial Church Meeting 11th April 2019

Once again it’s been a busy year for us, but before I go any further I’d just like to pay tribute to two faithful servants of this parish who died last year. Jean Douglas and Anita Skinner. Both Anita and Jean were artistically gifted and creative. Jean was not only a master of her needle but she was also a master of God’s word, building us up in our faith with her wisdom from the pulpit. Last year she celebrated 25 years as a Reader. Anita was a talented artist who shared her skills with us in many ways. She was an inspirational leader of the Flower Team and founded the Flower Club which goes from strength to strength. Two unique people with their own gifts and talents which they used generously in the service of God. Two good and trustworthy servants now sharing their Father’s glory. They are both missed by us all. May they rest in peace and rise in Glory.

Their work is done, ours continues.

I’ve had to spread myself pretty thin this year because of the Team Rector and Team Vicar vacancies but my colleagues throughout the team have picked up the mantel and made sure the service pattern was maintained. I feel exceptionally blessed and my address reflects my sense of gratitude. My sincere thanks go to my retired clergy colleagues here in Blackrod – Carol, Heather and Alan – for stepping in to provide worship and enabling me to minister elsewhere, or indeed have a break. The Churchwardens, retired clergy and lay ministers across the team have all picked up extra duties to cover the vacancies and this has been hard work for everyone. With a sense of relief we appointed the Revd Carol Pharaoh as Team Rector and it was wonderful to welcome her in January. Work is now in progress to appoint the Team Vicar for St James and St Georges. I now aim to focus my ministry more fully on the two churches I am responsible for – St Katharine’s and St Thomas’s.

You are such different churches with different opportunities and challenges. St Katharine’s is a traditional church with a faithful but largely elderly congregation, and St Thomas’s is a church in school with a large number of families attending, but with only a small core of committed members.

You have proved yourselves able and willing to maintain the life of this church. Even with my reduced input progress has been made this year. As we heard in the report we have worked hard to ensure we comply with the General Data Protection Regulations which came into force in May 2018. We were steered along the way by Gerry Kay whose thoroughness and hard work saw that process completed. Sincere thanks to Gerry for coming forward.

We also sharpened up our Health & Safety Policy, Risk Assessments, and Fire Safety policy. Many thanks to Sheila Kinrade and Mike Hollick who have taken on this role and also to Helen and Maurice Gambles, and the User Group, for their considerable help. Also huge thanks to Helen Gambles for continuing in the role of Child Protection Co-ordinator and Janet Hollick as Lead Recruiter. These roles are so unglamorous, tedious at times, and receive little recognition but are absolutely essential. Thank you for being prepared to sacrifice your time in this way.

Another challenge we faced this year was the work on the mosaic floor in the Chancel and again pressure was taken off the Churchwardens and myself by Robin Sharp who acted as Project Manager liaising with Bullen’s the contractors and the Architect. I will add my thanks to Robin for his overseeing of the work which has turned out splendidly!

The Archdeacon’s Inspection in May 2018 gave us the opportunity to go through the paperwork and it makes you realise just how much work goes into keeping this church open. It really is like running a small business, incongruous though that sounds in relation to a church. And that doesn’t take into account the financial side that Jean Hibbert our Treasurer so ably manages. And to think that all of it is done as volunteers. Well done to all of you.

For me the highlights this year have to be in relation to our mission and outreach through the well established Senior Moments, Events and Flower Club, which all provide opportunities for the community to engage with the church and enjoy friendship with each other. They continue to thrive with thanks and congratulations to those who make them happen.

We were pleased to finally get our MAP (Mission Action Plan) finalised. We came up with five Priorities:

1: To encourage people into the church we will make the building more accessible to the community.

2: To encourage more young adults and families to be part of our worship.

3: We will participate in mission in the community by identifying its needs

4: For planned giving to be increasing by 2.5% pa by 2020 and by 5% pa by 2023

5: To encourage and support new vocations by encouraging people to consider ALM, OLM and Lay Eucharistic Ministry.

Not only is it now on paper but we have begun to put it into action……..

P1 – Last year we introduced a new opportunity for the community to access the church. Each Saturday, except when there’s a coffee morning or other event, the church is open between 10-12 for quiet prayers. Revd Carol McCabe introduced this and is usually present if someone wants to come and talk. It’s important that people know that there are times that they can just sit quietly, undisturbed, and reflect or pray and generally spend time in God’s company. We are grateful to Carol for taking the lead with this.

P2 – The children’s corner enables parents to remain in church and still participate in the service in a way that the lower room doesn’t allow. It’s just not the same singing hymns on your own in there. Parents who use this space love it and it sends out the message that we think they are important to our worship.

In addition we have introduced a new type of Church “Messy Church” to encourage young people.  Messy Church is for families who find it hard to come to church on a Sunday for whatever reason. The important thing to understand is that it’s not just another club, it aims to be a church community in itself. Late Saturday afternoon seems to be a good time for families but you don’t have to be a family to come and be involved. All are welcome. This has started because someone, not me, had a vision and made it happen. Margaret Sumner, Ruth Sharrock and Sylvia Gregory are the ones driving this forward, and we trust and pray that God will use Messy Church to reach more people. Watch this space!

P3 – Needs in the community. This is important to me. The church has to serve a purpose in the community. We are a parish church. I have a responsibility not just to the people who come to church, but everyone who lives in the parish. This is how we differ from other denominations. We enable worship of almighty God, and we are here for people at the significant times in their lives – Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals. We are here to encourage people in their faith, to help them connect with God. We’re not just here for ourselves. William Temple, Bishop of Manchester then Archbishop of Canterbury once said “The church is the only organisation that exists for the people not in it”.

But what are the needs that we can help with? We are doing well in combating loneliness and isolation, especially in older people with our groups, but what are the other needs out there? Last summer we volunteered to be a packed lunch collection centre for Urban Outreach so that children eligible for Free School Meals received food during the holidays. It was slow starting but picked up a little. Perhaps this year the uptake will be greater as word gets round. That’s one example, there are plenty of needs in the community but we have to discover what they are and how we can help.

So we made a good start on the first three priorities. We’ve been able to make progress on these because folk have responded to the need and the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Increased giving and new vocations still need working on. Perhaps God is calling you in some way? You won’t get any peace until you answer that call!

I’m so encouraged with the way our ministry to young people is going. The Sunday School has had a refresh and has new enthusiasm and we are stepping out in faith with our Messy Church. I feel a real sense of excitement for what the future holds.

I started with tributes and thanks and a few more now. Everyone loves our Parish Magazine. Even people at the other churches look out for it. It’s a great team effort and full of good contributions from the church. However the driving force behind it is Mary Pryle. Mary edits, and prints 400 copies each month. In addition, Mary prints out the weekly service sheets, publicity posters and much, much more. We are so blessed that you choose to share your time and talents with us.

Finally, thank you to Valerie and Janet who have been excellent churchwardens this year. It’s a learning curve with everything that comes along but Valerie and Janet just calmly get on with things. Although responsible for bricks and mortar and making sure we comply with regulations, I maintain that Churchwarden is also a calling if it is to be done well. So thank you for answering that call. I would also like to extend my thanks for their personal support this year.

Finally thank you to all of you. I’ve got a book at home called “A faith worth sharing, a church worth joining”. Our faith is worth sharing that’s why I’m here. And it is you who make this a church worth joining. And you do, so thank you.