Vicar’s Annual Report 2014

These are interesting times at St Philip’s and I want to begin my annual report with a word about the future, taken from Hebrews 13, verse 8: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever. Sometimes we worry about the future but we are reminded here, as in other places in scripture, that God goes before us, preparing the way, and that he remains constant even when we are subject to change. It has been said that change is the only constant and I believe that we will see some significant changes in the life of our church in the next few years, some planned and some that we can’t anticipate. But the writer to the Hebrews reminds his readers, as I remind you, that we need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who will both inspire our faith and bring God’s work to fulfilment. This is Christ’s church and we are his body; without a focus on him we are simply a human organisation facing challenges that are beyond us. Focused on him, we can do more than we could imagine.
In this same chapter, the Hebrews are encouraged to Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. The P.C.C. has been discussing how we can develop our pastoral care so that everyone connected with St Philip’s knows that they are cared for by someone. Our current informal structure does mean that some people are overlooked and we want to try harder in the coming years to stop this happening. It seems likely that our home groups will form the basis of this care, supported by our plans to follow up the recent Christianity Explored course, but we are also discussing how those not in groups can be cared for more effectively. I am grateful to the members of the Care Group, co-ordinated by Norma Nixey, and to our existing home group leaders for the work they already do in this area of church life, which is foundational. And thank you all for your care, shown in so many ways.
The Hebrews are also encouraged, Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers. We have taken as our vision statement ‘Connecting our Community with God’ and are aware of the imperative to reach out; we need to continue to cultivate a culture of invitation and we are looking forward to offering the Christianity Explored course again in 2015. Our Parish News is one of the ways in which we reach out to the community, and I am very grateful to Kath and Geoff Roberts for taking on the responsibility for editing the News. They have made a great start! The Communication & Outreach Group are also looking for fresh opportunities to make connections (do you have any ideas?) and we are very aware of the opportunity that new building in the village will give us as a church. I like the reason that the writer to the Hebrews gives for extending hospitality; for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. That’s food for thought!
Worship is at the heart of our life as a church, with the opportunity that it gives us to learn more from God’s word and to share in fellowship around the Lord’s table. Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. I am grateful to John Diggle and Lis Wye for their Reader ministries; it is so good to have them as colleagues and to see them offering ministry beyond the parish boundaries as well as here in Kelsall. Andrew Macaulay has continued to preach and lead worship here when the demands of his training and his new job have allowed; please continue to pray for him as he has just begun his placement at Ashton Hayes and starts his third year of training in September. Paul Kennaugh continues to support our worship in many ways; not just as organist and choirmaster but also producing the weekly notices and setting up for communion. We are grateful to Paul for all he does and to the choir for their continued ministries and for their fundraising concert in the Autumn. It is also exciting to see the music group go from strength to strength.
It is in the context of worship that I also want to thank those with less ‘up front’ ministries – those who clean the church and polish the brasses, put flowers in church, week by week and on special occasions, Mary and Barbara who wash the linen, Sheila who bakes the communion bread, and those sidespeople who welcome us to worship. All of you make a positive contribution, through your service. And then, of course, there is the sterling work of the A Team, under Ted Wilkinson’s leadership, keeping our grounds so tidy and giving us pride at being here in the heart of the village. You may have especially appreciated this spring the renewal of the gravel path. Thank you all.
I have mentioned fundraising and I do want to thank all those who have been involved in fundraising initiatives in the last year – home groups, the choir, and individuals. We have really needed that extra income and will continue to need to take some similar initiatives in the next year, unless the level of regular giving increases. I feel the weight of the financial pressure we are under as a church and am very grateful to all those who give, in whatever way. Our annual accounts illustrate the challenge we still face and the need for us to resource ministry in the parish. The Hebrews are told Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have and we are grateful to all those who make sacrifices in their own lives in order to support our work here. I am grateful to Anne Kershaw for keeping such a careful eye on our church accounts and for bringing them to this meeting; and to Norma Nixey and Brian Rischmiller for their work week by week making sure that our gifts are registered and banked and that the bills are paid. Thank you all for fulfilling your quietly supportive roles.
Andy Wisbey is now chairing the Stewardship group, looking at how we can encourage one another in regular giving; Brian Rischmiller is chairing another group looking at our buildings, another resource for ministry, with an immediate focus on the need to refurbish the Church Lounge. This is a significant resource for us, especially in our work with children and young people, but all are agreed that it is showing its age and needs some attention. Last year’s quinqennial inspection of the church building itself also highlighted some areas of concern, one of which, the East Window, has become pressing. The buildings sub-group have also been garnering opinions about how we can make better use of our church building for welcome and for worship.
One of our stated priorities in the last year was to develop our work with families but the PCC now feels that there is a clear need to review our work with children and young people, especially since Jacquie Macaulay relinquished leadership of Splash and Holiday Club. We thanked Jacquie at the Nativity service for her significant work with the children and we are really glad that she is still part of our team. I also want to put on record our thanks to Ann Barnett, who has led the Youth Club for the last four years but has now decided to retire from that responsibility. Our thanks to Ann combine with an appeal, as Daniel has mentioned in his report – for others to step forward to take on leadership in Splash and in Youth Club. To all those who work with Little Fish, Splash, Whatever and the Youth Clubs, junior and senior, I would like to extend our heartfelt thanks. I would also like to personally thank Lyn and her team of baptism visitors, and Andrea Edwards, who is helping me with the transition to the new Disclosure & Barring Service checks. All of your work is critical to the future – the future of St Philip’s but, even more importantly, the future of our children.
The writer to the Hebrews, in this final chapter on which I have been drawing, says Have confidence in your leaders… I would like to thank Irene Skinner and Andy Wisbey for their support and leadership in the last year; I am very glad that they both agreed to continue as churchwardens. Thank you both for all that you do, much of which is quietly behind the scenes. I have also been supported this year by Heather Leather, not just in her role as PCC secretary but also picking up some of my admin work and trying to stop some of the spinning plates from falling to the floor.
Alongside St Philip’s we are also grateful for the fellowship in the gospel, in worship, in outreach and in service, that we enjoy with the membership and the minister at Kelsall Methodist Church. The development of our work together means that we have some interesting shared events coming up, beginning with our discussion morning and lunch on Saturday 14 June. Please put that in your diary.
These annual reports, which we offer to the church and to God, represent a wealth of activity, commitment and love, for which I thank everyone who has contributed. My report has highlighted, I hope, how that work is continuing, in faith. As well as continuing to develop our worship together week by week, as we meet for fellowship, prayer and teaching, the key areas on which we need to focus are, as outlined above,

    I conclude as the writer to the Hebrews does, saying Pray for us…
    Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

    Peter Mackriell April 2014