Pastoral Letter - 16th October
A few weeks ago we had our very first Annual Parochial Church Meeting online, courtesy of Zoom. It was, if you remember, woven into the theme for the day, which was the Feast of S. Francis of Assisi. This coming weekend we honour another saint, Luke, who not only wrote the Gospel given his name, but also the Acts of the Apostles, as he was keen to stress that the ongoing ministry and mission of Jesus Christ was expressed and experienced in the life of The Church, seeing the Acts as a sequel, or continuation, of the Gospel. As we think back and look forward in relation to the community of the Holy Spirit’s making at St Mary’s, I offer you a copy of my APCM report, that we may all ponder it together as we give thanks for all that we have experienced of Christ through the gift of each other and as we renew our commitment to building His kingdom together in the opportunities which await us. With blessings and best wishes Jeff
"REBUILD MY CHURCH" Talk given by the Vicar of St Mary’s Twickenham 4th October 2020. It is not with any disrespect to my predecessors that I say this, but every time a priest is admitted to a new Cure, a Chaplaincy or Parish, the Bishop calls her or him to "rebuild the church" in that place. It offers the opportunity to think again about what God is wanting any parish or chaplaincy to offer and what of Him He wants people to discover and experience there. It was eighteen and a half years ago that I moved to Twickenham and I too heard those words loud and clear- "Jeff, rebuild my Church at the heart of Twickenham." That has been my work and the work of those who have, with loyalty and love, worked with me in that endeavour. Just a few months after my Institution and Induction, eighteen years ago, I gave everyone in the congregations a piece of paper at the top of which were the words: "My vision for St Mary’s is that, over the next five years, we grow into a church which......................" and you and others filled in the rest. From what you submitted, I then collated the main themes and suggestions and presented them back to the PCC at the first of our Vision Days. Together we prayerfully considered how God was inviting us to focus the ministry of our church of St. Mary’s and, although we have had several subsequent Vision Days to look again at our Vision Statement, to see if it needed amending or adjusting, the three key statements still clearly express our priorities in mission and ministry at St Mary’s. These are they:
To nurture our children and young people with a deeper sense of God’s love and purpose for their lives.
To help nurture our relationships with God and our relationships with each other.
To use our church buildings more creatively to help make God more real for the people of this area.
Much has been done in all three of these areas over the course of many years, but 2020 has been an exceptional year in so many ways and so I would welcome the opportunity to comment specifically on what has happened in relation to these three statements at our church, since Covid-19 has become part of our lives. I do this because I truly believe that how a church, indeed, how a country or community deals with exceptional circumstances or challenges, reveals and exposes the real truth about what is going on and the health or otherwise of the enterprise. I think I am right in saying that none of us saw this coming, but how the congregation of St Mary’s responded needs to be recorded as an indication of who we are, what our priorities have become and what the core values are which underpin our life together. First: "To nurture our children and young people with a deeper sense of God’s love and purpose for their lives." I want to pay tribute to all those who have contributed with so much love and creativity to our work with the younger members of our community at St Mary’s. To Julie, Lacy and Katherine who have led the Sunday School sessions each and every week since March. For the first time since I was Ordained, I have been able to attend Sunday School and I have found what they are doing, and how they are doing it, wonderful! Each week they have looked at the same Gospel passage which we have been considering at the 9.30am service and seeking to allow the children to experience something of the Christ we learn about from those inspiring stories. Thanks too to Piotr who has joined us for some of these and offered thoughts and insights about the passages in question. Thanks too to our Church School which has more than risen to the challenges imposed by the Covid crisis and the lockdown limitations and to my fellow Trustees and Governors who have supported and encouraged them. Our second Vision Statement is: "To nurture our relationships with God and with each other." Here again, particularly over the past six months, people have come into their own. We have all needed the opportunity to think more deeply about our faith and to stay in which with each other during what has been going on. May I pay tribute to first Charlotte and Antoine and then Judy and Chris who have facilitated the services on Zoom which have enabled us to keep worshipping together. "A Christian community which has ceased to worship together has ceased." So thanks to you "fabulous four" who have made these services possible and to all those of you who have been prepared to read or interceed at them. I never thought that we would not be meeting in person every Sunday, but strangely, despite the circumstances, I have rather enjoyed this innovation, which has enabled us to worship in slightly different ways,it has actually felt rather personal, emotional and spiritual. Thank you to Barbara and Judy who have enabled us to visit the church for prvate prayer up until a few months ago when the church was closed for work to commence, ensuring that we were all Covid clean and safe. Thank you again to Barbara and her husband Chris for arranging for Evening Prayer to take place in the garden, which has been such a welcome chance to actually see people and worship together. Thanks to Margaret and Susan who, together with Barbara, have led those garden services so beautifully and prayerfully. A heartfelt thank you to Betty and Emily who responded so positively to my plea back in March for co-ordinators to arrange for a phone friendship network to come into being, which has been a wonderful and much appreciated way of people keeping in touch with each other and making sure that all is well. To Emily again for formatting my Pastoral Letters and sending them out week by week. Huge gratitude to her. To Katherine for her Daily Icon initiative to help focus and inspire our prayerful reflections. To Chris for updating our Facebook page which again has helped keep people in touch with each other and with what is going on. To Cath and Katie who work in the Parish Office, who again have done wonders at making sure that the church and hall are running smoothly. To Audrey, for faithfully opening up and locking up the garden each day, offering people the opportunity to entering into that sanctuary space as part of how they can deal positively with what is going on and find inspiration through the beauty of that place. To the Parent Network, who has kept in touch with each other and shared ideas about home schooling etc and generally been a sounding board for parents throughout the turbulence of Covid. To Barbara and Judy our wonderful Church Wardens and Francis our amazing Treasurer, it has not been the easiest of times to steer the course of a church but huge thanks to all three for all that they have done to underpin so much of what has been going on and for ensuring that the church can move forward as safely and as solvently as possible! The third Mission Statement is of course, "To use our buildings more creatively to help make God more real for the people of this area." I was so pleased to be asked very early on in the pandemic when the lockdown began and we could see how things were progressing, if the main St Mary’s hall could be used as a Food Hub for those who were most vulnerable in the area. Over the course of a week or so, I popped in a few times as things were being organized and food was being donated. I am so glad that in some small way like this, St Mary’s could play its part by making some of our buildings available at such a time of local need. It is a source of great pride to many of us that part of our buildings is used by Off The Record, that hugely significant project to help support vulnerable teenagers as they try to make sense of things, themselves and how they fit in to the world. The charity pays us a peppercorn rent for using the premises, but they elevate by their mission all that St Mary’s seeks to be and to do for the people of this area, by offering non-judgemental acceptance, compassionate as well as practical help and a belief in those who find it hard sometimes to believe in themselves. "Rebuilding the church" has been a particular focus for this year, of course in terms of our main church building. Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of so many of you, we had planned 2020 to be the year when we almost literally "Rebuilt the church," hopefully in God’s image, the image He wishes to project to people in our own day and generations to follow, to offer a place of sacred hospitality for worship which allows for a numinous sense of Him at the heart of our life together, which, as we briefed our architect, celebrates the transcendence and otherness of God as well as celebrating the immanence of God, God in our midst and in the lives of one another. This work is now nearing completion, indeed the Bishop is coming very soon, on 25th October, to rededicate the space and pray that God may use it creatively. I had envisaged the church being packed for that wonderful event, with all of us congregating and celebrating this momentous and marvellous moment, but of course, due to Covid restrictions, we are only allowed a small number of people to be in attendance, so those most closely associated with the project will be there, representing others of us, but all will be able to see it live, online on the day at 9.30am. But more thanks than I can possibly express to Gill Clark and Charlotte West for the hours and hours and hours and hours they have spent attending to each and every minute detail of the design, planning process and delivery of the vision, it really will be beautiful to behold. So: children, each other and our buildings, these three, have been the intense focus of our church as we have sought, in God’s strength, to be faithful to His gospel and "rebuild the church" within the current restrictions and limitations, to be as strong, as positive, as compassionate, as creative as we possibly can be. My thanks go out to each and every one of you who has helped transform this time of trial into one of togetherness, this time of problems into one which has been so positive, this time of challenge into one of companionship. I honestly believe that as God’s community at the heart of Twickenham, we are deeper and more united, more engaged with who God is and more committed to each other, than we were before. And with this enhanced sense of being Christ’s presence, may we continue to focus our lives on these things which will allow His love, His compassion, His strength, His Spirit, to thrive and deepen and grow in our midst. As we look at the past year let us give thanks for the gift of each other and for those people and moments which have helped to get us to this moment now. As we look to the future, let us pray that God would use us and use our reawakened, reordered, reconfigured, revivified church as a place of healing and renewal for our congregation and community. May He always be at the beating heart of who we are, may we continue to experience Him, serve Him, honour Him, focus on Him, feed from Him and be resourced by Him, for it is He who we need in order to rebuild, not just His Church, but our community, our country, our world, our relationships and ourselves. AMEN.
Please join us on Zoom this Sunday for our service. We will be celebrating St Luke, the writer of one of the gospels and also of the Acts of the Apostles.
Our readings will be: Acts Chapter 16 verses 6-12 and Luke Chapter 10 verses 1-9.
Who called Luke the physician
Whose praise is in the gospels
To be an evangelist and physician of the soul:
By the grace of the Holy Spirit,
And through the wholesome medicine of the gospel,
Give your Church the love and that same power to heal,
Through Jesus Christ Our Lord
Who lives and reigns with you
And the Holy Spirit, one God,
Now and forever. AMEN.
Rededication following the Reordering of the church.
The service of rededication will be led by The Bishop of Kensington at 9.30am on Sunday 25th October. Unfortunately, due to Covid restrictions, only those most closely associated with the project will be able to attend the service, representing so many more of you who have contributed so generously to allow the work to be done. You will be able to join us on our live feed by clicking on the following: https://vimeo.com/event/358771
Zoom Service - every Sunday, 9.30am
There are three main ways to join the service: 1.click on this link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85685339742 2. Go to zoom.us (or use the Zoom app) and enter the following Webinar ID: 856 8533 9742 3. If you want to join by telephone dial any of these numbers: 0203 481 5237 or 0203 481 5240 or 0131 460 1196 or 0203 051 2874 and then type in this Webinar ID when prompted: 856 8533 9742
These details are the same every week! If you would like to know more about the ongoing life of St Mary's and its activities, please see our website: www.stmarytwick.org.uk