Rector's Lent 2023 Pewletter
Dear Church Member
Kate writes: “As you know, we are also in the season of Lent. In this season we are invited to spend time embedding new spiritual practices. These may be those of self-discipline, experienced through giving up something which in doing this we are able to commit to developing more self-control, one of the fruits of the spirit which Paul mentions in Galatians 5. or, we can take up a new, positive habit in the hope that our faith will strengthened and grown.
I wonder how you are experiencing this season? For me it has whizzed by. I, like many others always have high hopes and imagine myself to go through a season of complete transformation, where I will emerge on Easter Day the new and improved Christian. All my faults will have melted away and I will be a shiny example of the perfect disciple. I am clearly delusional, as much as I have these expectations of myself, they are routinely more than I can ever manage.
The wonder of the Christian faith is that actually God never asks us to perform dramatic and seismic change through our own strength. He is not impressed when we try and impress him. In fact, all he asks of us is very simple. When we had the Lentern Quiet day on Ash Wednesday I was struck afresh by a short section from Psalm 51, one of the passages we spent time dwelling on and thinking about.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51.17).
The wonder, the beauty, the joy of the Christian faith is that God accepts us, as we are, with all our faults and brokenness and all the struggles we have in our faith. He doesn’t ask us to come before him when we are the perfect Christian, he asks us to come as we are and bring our hearts to him. AND then, he promises that his Spirit will be at work inside of us forever more. David, who wrote this Psalm in his contrition after his pursuit of the married Bathsheba knew this. He asks ‘Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me’ (v.10). I pray that you will know these great truths during Lent. We are invited to come before the Lord just as we are, but we can have confidence that from that moment on he will be at work in us and through us until we find out place in heaven.”
We are in stormy waters with regards the recent motion at General Synod. I am reminded that the Church cannot quell the storm through which she sails, but she can and must constantly offer rescue to those who recognise they are drowning and cry out for help. And so perhaps as the young Joseph Ratzinger suggested, the size of the Church is not anything that should concern us; only the quality of its faith, the clarity of its vision and the heat of its heart. These prophetic words speak powerfully into our situation and should give us great encouragement to deepen our faith, maintain a clear vision of what God wants us to achieve and remain ‘on fire’ for the gospel.
Whilst the CofE may have just signed its own death warrant (or be about to at July’s General Synod), the ‘Global South’ (Anglican churches in sub-Saharan Africa, South America and Asia) is growing and full of faith – even in the face of severe persecution. Between 70 and 80% of Anglicans are in the Global South meaning that the CofE and the Episcopal Church of the USA are relatively minor players in global Anglicanism. There is a Global Anglican Future Conference (or ‘GAFCON’) in April in Kigali, Rwanda which I will be attending to show solidarity with our orthodox brothers and sisters. I shall be away for a week after Easter and I hope to encourage and be encouraged. It is so important that they realise that despite both our archbishops and an overwhelming majority of our House of Bishops wishing to embrace the blessings of same-sex unions, there are many faithful leaders in the CofE who will make a stand and contend for the Gospel.
Church Growth. The good news is that we are now numerically larger than we were pre-pandemic. Notwithstanding the late Pope Benedict’s wise words above, it is wonderful to see growth at all four of our services. With Kate stepping back and no new curate until 2024 this growth will add to our stresses and strains and we will be relying on more people to get involved in supporting our activities.
Kate’s Adoption Process. Speaking of Kate, the great news is that she is due to go on Adoption Leave from Monday 27th March, Sunday the 26th being her final Sunday. We won’t know how the future (in terms of her return to ministry at BPC) will pan out but we shall see her and Dexter around and we must hold them in our prayers as the adoption unfolds.
Connect Groups. With the loss of Michael Greig last year and Kate heading off on adoption leave, management of our CGs is a challenge. We have been blessed by Mandy and Keith Hagon who have stepped up to take on the leadership of our CG programme and Jo Wigley and myself will take up some of the strain. Ultimately the vision is to have an extra member of staff who can take on this responsibility but that is a longer term aspiration as it would be very costly. We are committed to our vision of having every church member in a CG and to have enough trained CG leaders to enable this to happen.
Staffing Issues. The role of Families Worker is currently unfilled and to compound matters our wonderful Children’s Worker is heading off on maternity leave in May. We will shortly be advertising for a short-term contract to cover both these roles and do please pray that the Lords leads someone to us.
Easter. Easter awaits us at the end of Lent and we’re busy planning some wonderful services to which we can invite people along to. Do start to pray NOW who the Lord might be encouraging you to invite along.
Alpha. Alpha has been a huge success and we will be preparing a course for after Easter in the hope that there will be some who come to an Easter service who might wish to learn more about the Christian faith. If you’re interested in helping do let me know.
APCM. An important date for everyone’s diaries is Sunday 30th April on which our Annual Church Meeting will take place at 1030am.
The King’s Coronation. We will be hosting a Civic Service to celebrate King Charles’ Coronation on Sunday 7th May at 1030am.
Church Camping Weekend 2023. This is on Saturday 23rd July with options to camp on the Friday night and/or the Saturday night.
Parish Weekend 2024. Following on from the success of the parish weekend away we have booked in to Kents Hill Place (near MK) 27-29th September 2024.
Finally Finances. Our finances are bearing up but now is a great time to start giving and full details can be found on our website. You can also give via our ‘tap and pay’ machine at the back of church.
with much love