Address given at the General Vestry on 15th April 2015
My dear friends, how time flies when you’re having fun. It’s hard to believe that that I have now been with you over a year-and-a-half, and that this is my second time to chair this Easter General Vestry Meeting. Since we last met together in this context, we have, of course, moved into the Rectory, and bit by bit I’ve been getting to know more people and getting better acquainted with our parochial strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and challenges. The good news is that our strengths and opportunities by far outweigh our weaknesses and challenges, so much so that not a day goes past when I don’t thank God for having brought me to this parish.
I believe it is fair and accurate to say that we are a thriving, vibrant, growing Christian community, as testified to by the large number of baptisms in the last twelve months, the increased numbers attending worship, and the large number of regular events and activities being run and enjoyed.
We’ve had some exciting developments over the course of the last year, including: the addition to our service rota of an informal, contemporary worship service one evening per month, which has proved to have cross community appeal; the formation of a weekly prayer group; the running of monthly coffee mornings and movie nights for our more seasoned members; the reintroduction of a strong Greenlanes School component into our monthly Family Services; a number of different concerts utilising the wonderful acoustics and aesthetics of our beautiful church; our 36 page full colour, glossy annual review, and even greater Ecumenical co-operation including shared Bible Study and joint greetings at Christmas and Easter.
We also have many opportunities on offer for increased ministry, faith development and fellowship, and included in the aspirations for the next twelve months are a Sunday morning crèche for babies & children too young to attend Sunday Club, a Healer Prayer Group and an Alpha Course, in addition to lots of fun social activities for all ages. An opportunity to build up our links with the students of Mount Temple Comprehensive School also exists.
One that note, any reflection on our weaknesses must include our continued lack of specific youth ministry, something which can also be viewed as both a challenge and an opportunity. However in order to meet this need we require a small number of people willing to commit to developing/running a youth group or some form of age- appropriate ministry. Please seriously consider if you could help make this dream a reality and move this weakness onto our strength list.
Of course, every parish also faces challenges and we are no exception, though thankfully, by the grace of God, we are not facing any challenges which cannot be overcome. While we are truly blessed with the magnificent and enviable facilities we have, a challenge exists to maintain those of the Parish Centre at their current high level, and in the case of the church, to restore the fabric of the building with the addition of some 21st century innovations. A major scheme of work is planned for the church this year, which will necessitate its closure for a number of months once more, probably at the end of May, during which time worship will take place in the Parish Centre. I have asked Jonathan Boyle to outline the proposed works to this meeting a little later on.
Obviously, such a large project will be very costly and with our capital reserves greatly depleted as a result, the necessity of eliminating the annual deficit incurred by the day to day running of the parish must become a priority. This can and I’m sure will be achieved by fundraising and increased regular giving. To this end, I ask you to please support our fundraising efforts as they occur, and also highlight our two schemes for regular giving – by standing order and church envelope. Don’t forget, donations which add up to €250 or more per year present the parish with the opportunity of claiming additional income by way of a tax refund, at no extra cost to the donor. A very good reason for regularising your financial giving, if possible. Of course, there are other ways apart from financially, to give to the parish, and we need people’s time and talents to maintain and extend our activities and our ministry. For example, it was wonderful to see so many new families involved in last year’s Autumn Fair.
In addition to financial challenges, we must always continue to challenge ourselves as a parish to ensure that everything we do is done to the glory of God, to build up his kingdom in this place, to reach out to this community and beyond with loving words and actions in his name, and to let our light so shine before all people that they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in Heaven.
This past year has seen much joy but also its fair share of sadness, and we acknowledge tonight in prayerful remembrance those from this parish who have passed away since our last Easter General Vestry Meeting: Edie Purser, Reg Walsh, Billy Davies, George and Grace Callaghan, and Bertie Shaw, as well as former parishioners including Florrie Hickson, Bill Thompson and Dorothy O’Hare. We keep a minute’s silence in their memory…
This evening, I want to thank the many people who make up the wonderful team with whom I am privileged to work:
– Mark Acheson, for his assistance in worship, pastoral care, ministry, administration, technical support and many other ways.
– Our outgoing churchwardens, Jeanne Colvin and John Davis, for not one but two years dedicated service and devotion, often over and beyond the call of duty.
– John Rowden, our very own maestro, unbelieveably in his 49th year as organist in this parish – he started when he was 5 (& Sandra and Stephanie Maxwell who very ably stand in on the rare occasions John is not available)
– The Choir, who though declining in numbers and regularity, still enhances many of our services, especially big occasions, with its beautiful singing.
– Our Glebe wardens, Jonathan Boyle and Stuart McConnell, who oversaw the work done on the rectory prior to us moving in, and continue to oversee the maintenance of the church and grounds.
– The Outgoing Select Vestry Members (esp. Heather Hunter *12 years & John Rowden *25 years since 1988)
– Needs Group, Finance Group and Fabric Group
– Treasurer and Secretary, Nadine Watters and Bruce Maxwell
– Jack Storey, our Church Warden Emeritus Ted Jones and Shirley Davies for administering the chalice at Holy Communion, and Ted for helping at funerals and other services.
– Sunday Club leaders: Lynn Boyle, Fiona Ince, Elma Jackson, Olwen Lynch, Heather Hunter, and Katie Lynch
– Cathy Atkin, Sandra Sargent and Lynn Boyle for preparing the school children for Family Services.
– Those who decorate the church and keep it adorned with flowers, especially Iris Acheson, Heather Hunter, Sheena Harper, Maureen Dixon & Hazel McCullagh, and Alan and Michele Harper for their artistic skills at Harvest and Christmas.
– The Ladies who dust the church, co-ordinated by Shirley Davies.
– Those who provide refreshments after church, and Michelle Harper, co-ordinator
– Those who cater for special occasions, Heather McCullagh, co-ordinator, Jill O’Neill
– Trevor Garrett, official title Parish Centre supervisor but so much more besides
– PCMC especially Bruce Maxwell
– Sandie Stirling, stewardship recorder
– Hazel Garrett, who administers the columbarium
– Charles Kinch, car parking attendant for funerals
– Officers and those who help to run all the parish organisations including (BB, Guides, Badminton Club, Tennis Club, Indoor Bowls Club, Mothers’ Union & Whist Drives
– Heather McCullagh & Michelle Harper for monthly Coffee Mornings and Movie Nights
On a personal level I’d like to thank Nicole, for the company, fun, support and encouragement she gives me on a daily basis.
Above all, I wish to thank our Heavenly Father who equips us and supports us as we commit our past, our present and our future into his hands.
To God be the glory. Amen.