Bedhampton APCM 2019 Rector’s Comments
Speaking Notes – Caveat
These notes are my speaking notes and are provided as an accompaniment to the recording. Please accept that they are not intended to be a published grammatically correct essay. I do hope and pray however they help you move towards Jesus.
Now onto the content…
I would first like to thank everyone who has contributed towards our walk towards Jesus this last year. I said, this time last year, in my very first sermon, that setting expectations of one another were really important. Well, I have to say that my expectations of what it would mean to arrive and become part of this community again have been smashed.
Suzy and I have felt nothing but welcome and encouragement from you. I am often asked by others how we are finding the ‘new parish’ and my answer is always the same. Amazing! We love walking towards Jesus with the community of Bedhampton. You should, indeed you must take it as an encouragement that we truly mean it when we say that we love being here.
If you were part of our Lent study this year you will remember that Jesus said
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:35 New International Version (NIV)
I glad to report that this last year I have seen disciples here in Bedhampton.
A Foundational Year
This year has been a year of making sure that the foundations really are strong. It has been a year of you getting to know us, and of us getting to know you. Many of you have visited with us at one of our afternoon ‘More tea Rector?’ gatherings, and I know there are many more of you who we are yet to receive an invite. We hope to carry on with those on this year, so you will get an invite at some point.
On Sundays, we have studied the way of Jesus together. We have seen our regular attendance numbers climb which is lovely. But for me, more importantly, I have seen God’s spirit moving amongst you as I look out on a Sunday morning.
On those Sunday mornings we asked questions like, “what does it mean to be a church who is a community here for God in Bedhampton?” A community who can expect to be discipled, encouraged, known, loved, included and forgiven.
We looked at the churches in the book of Revelations and asked what we can learn about being a church that Jesus wants us to be.
We began studying the Gospel of Matthew together and then we thought about what God might have us do as we looked at our Vision, Identity and Purpose. Our V.I.P.
A foundational year of studying what it means to walk towards Jesus together.
There has also been some practical stuff as well. In the background, there has been much going on in the office with you PCC, Churchwardens and Pam in the office. There is still much to do to but we have not been without progress this year.
Without Pam, I am not sure how we would have got through the GDPR set up. The transition to a new people database systems, website, email system, rota system and much more. As you know Pam retires this year after over 30 years service and we shall be celebrating her service when we all gather together on 7th July.
The PCC has helped me think through and agreed with a slight change to the structure of the leadership team. So this year as well as the two churchwardens I have invited two others to join the Standing committee with myself and Mike the Treasuer. Meaning your core leadership team will now consist of The Rector, The Treasurer and four Wardens, Ann, Roger, Fleur and Sandra. A balanced management team both across gender and also across the two venues we worship in.
This year we had to take the difficult decision to pause our Sunday children’s work whilst we put some administration foundations in place. In the background, our new parish Safeguarding Officer has been very busy helping us get our checks fully updated and in place as well as enabling training in safeguarding for all those who work with Children and vulnerable adults. There is still much for us to do in this area but we are very nearly in the place where we will be able to relaunch our Sunday children’s work.
Moving forward our first Sunday of the month at St Nick’s will be all age, The third Sunday of the month will be all children together in Sunday Flix. With our Second and Fourth Sundays having Sunday groups for a preschool creche, for Primary School ages and the young people who attend Secondary school. None of this would be possible without the young people’s leader volunteers and our new Parish Safeguarding Officer.
I have mentioned her twice now so I should probably introduce to you our Parish Safeguarding Officer. I am delighted to announce that Catherine Langhorn is our new PSO. Catherine has had a somewhat busy week as her son Adam was married on Friday at St Thomas’ but has made the effort to be here today. Catherine worships at the St Thomas venue normally attending the 8 am service. I have discovered over the last few months that she not only has a gift of administration but also is happy to remind the Rector of what he should be doing. Just the type of person we need for this role.
So as Catherine stands, please would you welcome her.
A Listening Year
It is great to have Catherine on board, and it is great to celebrate all that God has done in the last year. All those things are wonderful and a real encouragement to me that we are ready to move forward.
But forward to where?
Which is why I believe the most important part of this last year has been the listening to God we have been doing. As we have prayed and gathered we have been listening to him for our V.I.P. What is God’s Vision, Identity and Purpose is for us as a church here in Bedhampton.
We are still in that process and I expect us to be there for a while longer as we seek to finalise where we are heading into the summer. We will then launch our V.I.P as our guiding principles for God’s work here in Bedhampton in September.
But let me update you and on the feedback, I have been hearing. In the Letters, you have written and the feedback from the groups you attend and the prayers you have said there have been some themes coming out.
There is something about….. being people-centred as a community walking towards Jesus.
There is something about….. gathering in home churches, and valuing them as much as our Sunday gatherings.
There is something about….. reaching out to our local community to show the love of Jesus and invite them to join with us on that journey. In a simple exercise when we looked at how we might use our resources if you had the say; you said that Community Outreach and speaking to people about Jesus should take over 25% of both our time and our money. It’s good to know I am in the right place with the right people who want the love of God to go out there into our community.
There is something about….. enabling those who might come to learn more of Jesus outside of our Sunday mornings. That we might enable families and those who do not relate to traditional church services to walk towards Jesus in other forms of gathering together.
Then there is something about….. Children and Young People and encouraging them as the church not only of tomorrow but also today.
I could go on but perhaps let me simply read you some Bible verses that have come in over this time of listening.
I read from…
6 With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
And then there is
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
For me, these are the things I am seeing and hearing from you as you and I listen to God for our V.I.P.
That we might become known as an all age community who are apprentices to Jesus. Older and younger people living our daily lives reflecting His love into the world in which we walk. That we walk towards Jesus together, building community, acting justly and mercifully, loving God and God’s people in our daily lives, and inviting all people across the spectrum of this community to join us.
They seem to be the themes at this point.
But as I conclude let me say that this process of listening to God is not complete. I believe God has more to say. This next year as we move forward there are many ideas of mine, and of yours that we could charge off with and do. But if we do it in our power then we are wasting our time.
So rather than layout before you at this time a plan of attack for next year I want to call you to prayer. I want to say don’t stop now, push through. Don’t get bored of listening but instead come and join me in forty days of V.I.P prayer.
40 Days of V.I.P Prayer
This Wednesday on May 1st I will head away on Holiday for a couple of weeks leaving Suzy in your capable care. I am walking some of the Camino de Santiago with friends. You might like to holiday on a beach or visit a European city but it seems I have chosen to walk 167 miles. I am doing that to recharge my batteries and to be refreshed, and I am doing that to spend some time with God. On that journey, I will be praying to our God and listening to hear what he might still have to say to us.
So I ask you to join me for 5 minutes daily to pray into God’s V.I.P for us. In fact, even when I return after those couple of weeks, I am saying let’s continue for the whole forty days leading up to Pentecost. Collect your sheet for the forty days on your way out today.
Then on Sunday, June 9th we will complete our 40 Days of V.I.P Prayer by joining others as Portsmouth Diocese hold the Thy Kingdom Come picnic and prayer celebration at Portchester Castle in the afternoon.
For us as a community walking towards Jesus, our God would have heard us cry out to him for forty days. I believe he will have spoken to you and the only thing I ask is that you feedback to me what He says to you. That way we can lay out the map as we walk towards Jesus. Then as we launch into the year of 2019 / 2020 we will know not only are the foundations solid, but the map ahead is God’s and not just ours.
So come join me in 40 Days of V.I.P Prayer for our future together.