Rector's Lent 2021 Newsletter
Dear Church Member
New Birth. Christmas seems an age ago but the snow we yearned for then has now been and gone. What a Christmas it was with our community battered by unanticipated floods. But we held our services and managed to celebrate Jesus’ birth: the miracle of “God made man in Palestine”. That day resets the calendar; this birth begins the rebirth of broken creation; this historical nativity changes everything for everyone forever. We take the flickering flame from Bethlehem and start lighting fires. We arise in the words of Bruce Cockburn to ‘kick at the darkness ‘til it bleeds daylight’. In the dark shadows of this pandemic and the frustrations and pain of Lockdown #3, we open wide the windows, see the snowdrops and bulbs peeking through the frosty earth and breathe: “Everything is beginning. Everything is new. Anything just became possible.”
As the days lengthen and spring gets ever closer it’s time to reimagine a few projects, to renew our broken dreams, to proclaim again good news to the poor that another king has come. The Son is born in our midst and his gospel cannot be locked down, locked up or locked away much longer.
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” - Isaiah 43:18-19
New Life. So how do we ‘spring up’ when many of us are pretty exhausted, emotionally drained and struggling with physical and mental health?
The pandemic hit us, and now there are three phases of getting back to a new normal: The response, the recovery and the rebuilding.
Our Response. We have responded: Initially the building was closed but we – the body - were anything but closed. The foodbank was operating at full-tilt and we were very active supporting one another and those in the wider community. This was largely unseen love and compassion but God was and is amongst it and people have come to faith (and are asking to be baptised) as a result of encounters with our helpers. We know we’ve been doing something right when the Kingdom grows! Our services seemed to have hit the spot with amazing production standards and great teaching which have meant that our online congregations have grown with a global reach (I’m being serious – people watch our services from around the globe – I know because I get thankful emails!).
Here is some wonderful feedback about the work of our foodbank:
“As a result of the hard work carried out by the Food Bank Team, we have been given the opportunity to work alongside two members of the public who have been suffering for quite some time. After a couple of meetings, they were both willing to acknowledge Jesus and furthermore both have prayed and given their lives to Christ, and wish to join our services. This is absolute glory to God and a testimony to teamwork and evidence of Jesus working within us and through us.”
The Recovery. We are now – God-willing – about to enter the recovery phase. I may be overly optimistic but with the huge success of the vaccine roll-out I would hope that restrictions will start to be eased after Easter. So what might this phase look like for BPC?
Healing. In Mark 1:29-39 we see what a priority healing was for Jesus. The leper asks him if he is willing to heal him and this makes Jesus ‘indignant’. Not recorded, but I suspect Jesus might have said “What do you mean ‘am I willing?’; of course I’m willing!”. There will be a lot of healing needed and the great news is that this is the business of the church – to bring the good news of Jesus to as many as possible because that will bring healing.
Our focus in the recovery phase will be on people. The services are the easy bit – we need to re-establish the church family, seek out those who’ve ended up on the fringe or even totally disengaged, help and assist people back into community and pray for the health of the people of God as we overcome anxiety and the damage that has been done to our mental wellbeing.
Pastoring. This will require a huge pastoral effort in which we must all play a part. We can arrange to meet up and help those who are nervous going out and start sharing meals again and so on and so forth. We must also welcome and include those who have joined the church in the last year and may never have actually set foot inside the building. We must follow-up on those who we’ve encountered and have sensed are open to Jesus and introduce them to Him – perhaps through Alpha.
We will also need to look backwards – grieving for lost educations and friends, acknowledging how painful this last year has been. I very much hope that our BPC Book of Lament will assist us to do this. And we will need to look forward identifying lessons that we’ve learnt and reflecting on how we might do things differently in the future. This phase is not about growing numerically but developing as a people of God.
We will be planning events for the church to gather and in the diary so far is a camping holiday in July and a mini-staycation in October with a barn dance. I hope Connect Groups can also plan physical events for when that is allowed.
Parish Weekend Away. Looking further ahead we have booked the High Leigh Conference Centre for 9-11 September 2022 and would like you to add these dates to your diaries as we want the whole church to come together for what will be the first parish w/e away in 5 years. I will write to you all separately about this in due course.
The Foodbank. Our Foodbank is open for donations on Tuesdays 10-2, 2-4 and Thursdays 10-12.
“KickStart” & CAP Life Skills. We’re expecting more people in the area to fall into financial hardship, experience mental health pressures and become unemployed. KickStart will restart offering online support sessions covering: money management, finding work, maintaining good relationships, dealing with ‘bad habits’, and improving mental health and wellbeing. Brian and Ann Hubbard are leading this, having already helped a number of local people in 2020.
Once restrictions are eased, we will be looking to relaunch CAP Life Skills community groups in The Centre to provide additional support for those in Financial, Emotional and Spiritual poverty locally. Let’s pray for these initiatives as we seek to meet needs in the town.
The Office. Many of the staff team are still furloughed part-time. This has been particularly helpful for poor Jan Ballantyne who was flooded out of her house on Christmas Eve. The office is unmanned with Lara and Jan mainly working from home.
New Staff. We are excited to be able to start the search for a youth worker to start work in September so do please pray that the Lord will lead the right person to us.
Families. Jo Wigley and Jayde Crouch will cover the Families portfolio well into next year.
Fabric. Much is happening with regards the fabric of our church:
Work on replacing weather-damaged stonework will go ahead after Easter.
The clock is now back fully restored and with a fully automated winding system and is chiming before the hour. The other chimes will be reintroduced once lockdown is lifted.
The side chapel project is pretty much completed and look fabulous. We just need to arrange the furniture and fittings.
We will soon be going out to tender to fix the kitchen corner subsidence (sadly a massive and expensive job).
Service Pattern for 2021. The new trial timings will continue for the foreseeable future. We really need a good run of near-normal services in order to make a good judgment call and slipping in and out of lockdown has been very unhelpful. With no BCP service in Buckingham I am pleased to say that there will be one at Radclive (1st Sunday) and another at Thornborough (3rd Sunday) both at 9am (check before going as these are lockdown dependant). We have no plans for a BCP service at BPC until the results of the current service trial are evaluated.
Finances. Our finances are bearing up under the strain of a drop in income and the Government’s furlough scheme has been a lifeline. If you are not a regular giver now is a great time to start giving and full details can be found on our website /giving.
Lent. As we embark on our Lenten journey towards Good Friday and Easter we have the following to build you up:
Ash Wednesday service at BPC with Ashing – 10am (there is no evening service)
A course on prayer
A course on the bible
A half term scavenger hunt. Details of the two courses are on the website.
Finally: I am reminded how blessed we all are – not just because we have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies – but because are part of a truly wonderful church. I have been so humbled by how so many of you have risen to the challenge to be Christ’s hands and feet in our community. Thank you everyone and I will continue to hold you all in my prayers and until we meet again physically.
May Christ give you grace to grow in holiness,
to deny yourselves, take up your cross, and follow him;
and the Lord bless you and watch over you,
the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you,
and the Lord look kindly on you and give you peace.
with much love