Vicars Report – 2017-2018

ST. JOHN’S CHURCH, HEATH HAYES

ANNUAL PAROCHIAL CHURCH MEETING – APRIL 2018

 

VICAR’S ANNUAL REPORT FOR 2017/8

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

  • This has been yet another busy and varied year.

     

  • My thanks, as usual, to my clergy colleagues for their support in the ministry – not only at Sunday and midweek services, but also at baptisms, weddings, funeral and memorial services. Their support has been particularly welcomed at key points in the year – especially Christmas and Easter – and at those times when the number of funeral services threatened to overwhelm someone who is supposedly on a 0.5 contract! It’s always a bit of a balancing act – trying to ensure that all the clergy have opportunities to minister at our church whilst also fulfilling their obligations as employees, as spouses and family members, and whilst also pursuing their outside interests and ensuring that they have bodily and mental rest and refreshment times.

     

  • My thanks to my churchwardens, Mick and Gloria, for their commitment to their calling, and for the support and encouragement that they’ve offered, not only to the church body as a whole throughout the year, but also to me personally at some privately difficult times.

     

  • My thanks to  Mick, in his capacity as Treasurer, for all his hard work with the church’s finances – ensuring that at the end of each year, we remain solvent with our Parish Share payments completed and ticked off! He is an eternal optimist when it comes to matters of finance and is a perfect foil to my pessimism. His work as Treasurer, however, would not be possible without the ongoing support of church members who beaver away diligently in the church office and, in this regard, I’d publicly like to thank Sheila, Joyce, Gloria, Fay and Dorothy for their wonderful contributions.

     

  • I know that everyone will share with me in thanking our Parish Secretary, Gloria, for all her behind-the-scenes work in the Office – where she not only keeps an eye on the incoming hall hire payments and the outgoing payments, but also keeps us on track with the Church Diary and the production of the Pew News.

     

  • Talking of Hall hire payments, I need to thank Val for her work as the Lettings Officer. The work that she does is crucial … because without that inflow of rent money, our church would, regrettably, be in dire financial straits!

     

  • I want to thank Val, Tony and Glenys for their continued commitment to the work of the Deanery Synod.

     

  • I want to thank Andy, Gloria, George and all members of Doxology for their music ministry … not forgetting Alan Barnett who still blesses us with his presence from time to time.

     

  • I want to thank countless other people too for the work that they do for the church, silently and unnoticed – e.g. Dorothy (funeral ministry & office administration), Sheila Senior (100 Club), everyone involved in the ‘refreshments ministry’,  Mick & Linda for their breakfasts, Irene for her fund-raising efforts with the Valentine Ball and the Christmas Market, Gloria for her involvement with the Fashion Shows, David & Glenys for their ‘linen ministry’, Stuart and Mel for their rubbish ministry, Team Kershaw (for everything floristic), Paul for arranging the readers and intecessors for our services, and the team who regularly roll up their sleeves on a regular basis to attend to those jobs, inside and out, that keep popping up … Sandi, Sheila, Linda, Barbara, Paul Pugh, Graham, Mick ….

     

    Please forgive me if I’ve omitted anyone or a particular ministry. Please remind me about it, and I’ll gladly include it in my report.

     

  • Finally, a personal thank you from me to you all for your words of encouragement and support throughout the year. This year in the parish hasn’t been the easiest one for me personally – there has been sadness, and there has been disappointment and some hurt along the way – and I have therefore welcomed those words of friendship and support more than ever!

Our parish mission statement remains the same – ‘… to encourage and enable all people to recognise and celebrate God’s unconditional love’.  We’re reminded of it each week in our Pew News, and it underpins everything that we do – and set out to do – in our ministry and mission as a church.

This report is presented in accordance with the five themes identified within the Lichfield Diocesan ‘Going for Growth’ Plan:-

  1. DISCOVERING THE HEART OF GOD

Our focus here is:

  • To encourage people to experience a closer encounter with God
  • To encourage people to become more familiar with God’s teaching
  • To nourish people’s spiritual journeys
  • To create a more prayerful church community
  • To enable people to experience a variety of worship styles, liturgies and traditions

     

     

    What have we done?

     

  • We have continued to offer a variety of Sunday and midweek Communion services that differ in content and style, and which have accorded to the liturgical seasons of the Christian calendar.

     

  • We have (in general) remained faithful to the Common Worship Lectionary in terms of our preaching, although there have been diversions into other themes from time to time e.g. one-off sermons on the Parables (April/May 2017) and ‘Women in God’s Story (July 2017). Such diversions will continue into the year ahead.

     

  • We have offered a wide variety of services at key points during the year – e.g. at Christmas, Easter and Harvest.

     

  • We introduced a new Order of Service for Ordinary Time (in July 2017), and continue to use the new Order of Service for Baptism.

     

  • The non-Eucharistic ‘Simply Worship’ service has been offered on a monthly basis throughout the year, allowing time and space for a more informal, reflective and interactive time of worship, and I’m thankful to Debbie for her lead with this.

     

  • A new service – entitled ‘Celebration Praise’ – has been offered. This has been a welcome development and I’m generally pleased at the level of support that these have received. A blend of traditional and modern music with appropriate instrumental accompaniment.

     

  • Last year, I reported that Dave Mason and I were in conversation about the potential for music and choral singing, as a means of outreaching into the wider community. With Dave’s sudden and wholly unexpected move to pastures new during the year, I’m sad to say that no further progress was made in this regard.

     

  • Midweek discussion groups were organised throughout the year – e.g. ‘The Challenge of the Lord’s Prayer’ (June/July 2017), ‘A Life Worth Living’ (Jan/Feb 2018) and ‘Seven Words to the Cross’ (Lent 2018). Further midweek discussion groups are in the pipeline for 2018/9. Watch this space!

     

  • The weekly Devotion and Prayer Group was launched in June 2017.

     

  • A Taize Prayer evening was offered in September 2017.

     

  • Creation-tide prayers were shared during September/October 2017.

     

  • We contributed significantly to the annual ‘Women’s World Day of Prayer’ (March 2018)

     

  • Our need to engage in prayer has been encouraged and enabled via the Pew News each week – see ‘Prayer for the Week’ and ‘Special Prayers for People and Places’

     

  • People have been encouraged to become more familiar with God’s teaching, and the challenge that it poses, via our ‘Can you spare a Minute?’ feature in Pew News.

     

    I’m sure that you’ll agree that a lot has been happening on this front during the year – and I can vouch for the fact that a number of people have worked hard to make it all happen, including my clergy colleagues and all of the instrumentalists and singers. I am grateful to them all.

     

    Response

     

    It continues to sadden and disappoint me that the effort and energy expended by so many people is not being matched by the congregation at large. Levels of attendance at midweek worship services are poor. Attendance at midweek teaching is poor. Attendance at our special midweek services at Christmas and Easter are poor. The level of attendance for our Week 4 Sunday service remains poor.

     

    Am I discouraged and disheartened – well, on behalf of those who regularly put in a lot of time and effort in preparation, yes I am.

     

    For myself – I am reconciled in the knowledge that I am working as hard as I can to provide opportunities for people to come to enjoy the banquet that is freely available to everyone in the Kingdom. Whether or not they have an appetite to avail themselves of this nourishment is a private matter between them and God. I will continue to offer food to his Lambs as best as I can for as long as I remain with you in this parish.

     

     

  1. MAKING NEW DISCIPLES

     

    This focuses upon:

     

  • Encouraging people to discern their Christian calling.
  • Encouraging people to nurture and affirm the discipleship of others.
  • Enabling and equipping people to respond to God’s call to Christian ministry.
  • To encourage and support the ministry of all within the church fellowship.
  • To encourage people to adopt a ‘whole-life discipleship’ view of mission.
  • To encourage people to see the learning opportunities presented through ecumenical working.

     

     

     

    What have we done?

     

    We’ve tried to do a great deal – but our efforts this year have been ‘thwarted’ by a number of factors over which we have had little control. Nevertheless, we have continued to make some progress – e.g.

     

  • The Children’s Ministry Team – has decreased in size as a consequence of personal, family and workplace demands. I am incredibly indebted to Fay Holding for her steadfastness and for the valiant work that she does with our very limited number of children in difficult and testing circumstances. Just as soon as we build up a team of children’s workers to grow our Children’s Ministry, those children leave us for other churches where a great range of resources and activities are available. This has been particularly disappointing for us as a church, but I take comfort from the fact that they children haven’t been lost completely to the Kingdom.

     

  • The Residential Care Home Teams – these have sometimes struggled to make an impact due to factors beyond their control, and the current situation remains variable across the different care homes. We need to review the ministry that we offer at these places. Very recently, we’ve been invited to extend our ministry into Needwood House .

     

  • The Fund-Raising Group (Gloria, Lee, Irene, Lesley, Glynne & Debbie) – whose duty it is to identify fund-raising opportunities and possibilities for the church, and to encourage others to draw alongside to ensure that those ideas are converted into action – has met infrequently throughout the year. For a number of reasons (inc. the sudden departure of two key members), its programme of activity for the year was not fully achieved, but notable successes were the Valentine Ball and the Christmas Market.  It’s time to re-establish ourselves and to move forward optimistically.

 

  • The Fabric Team (co-ordinated by Mick) has drawn in men and women to undertake necessary work around the church and its grounds. My thanks to everyone who was involved in the recent Operation Spring Clean, and to everyone who lends a hand from time to time.

     

  • The Welcome Team seems to be working efficiently as a ‘meeter and greeter of newcomers (in particular) and to enable people to feel part of our Christian fellowship.

     

  • It’s sometimes hard for us to appreciate that God asks us to enable and equip others so that they can respond to their own Christian calling outside the church building. God wants us to equip people so that, in turn, they can foster the growth of the Kingdom in those whose lives they touch in turn …  it is therefore in humility that I acknowledge and applaud the work that Jenna does with the work of her children at Five Ways, that Rob does with his students in Walsall, that Barbara does with her children at Gorsemoor, that Paul does with the Chase Terrace Beaver and Scout groups. Thank you all for taking God’s values into those diverse situations, and for being fruitful on the frontline!

     

  • It’s difficult for me on my present contract to work much harder than I’m doing at present – and the restrictions placed upon my working week make it virtually impossible for me to get more engaged with ecumenical work, and with meetings of the Deanery Synod and Chapter. Thankfully, there are others who do so.

     

     

  1. REACHING NEW GENERATIONS

     

    This focuses upon our attempts to:

     

  • spread the Good News among new segments of the local population
  • enable more people to experience our fellowship as a loving/serving community
  • enable people to appreciate that the church is available to them in times of need.
  • enable newcomers to feel loved and welcomed
  • encourage people to adopt local, regional, national & global perspectives of human need.

     

    What have we done?

     

  • Continued to work alongside all three local primary schools on curriculum matters and through the delivery of regular whole-school assemblies.

     

  • Offered the church as a loving and caring community to the school staff at times of need – e.g. during OFSTED inspections … baking cakes for the staff room, taking flowers as tokens of encouragement/appreciation to the head-teacher,  sending congratulatory cards, supporting the school curriculum (e.g. plant pots and seeds for gardening project). A series of ‘little things’ which make a difference. They’re random acts which shows the kind and caring face of the church.

     

  • Worked alongside the local primary schools for their Easter, Harvest and Christmas productions … and welcoming the hundreds of parents/grandparents that come along to support them.

     

  • Offer marriage vow renewal services to local community residents who are not active churchgoers.

     

  • Offered opportunities for local Beaver/Scout packs to do some environmental work on our grounds.

     

  • Offered a range of services in a professional and friendly way – baptisms, weddings, funerals, memorials – all these have outreach potential that can be built upon.

     

  • Encouraged the church fellowship to offer ‘random acts of kindness’ to their friends and neighbours, especially outreaching to those with whom they had little previous contact.

     

  • Encouraged people to pray for people and places in need – e.g. Libya, Syria, South Sudan, Mexico, Haiti, the Philippines, Bangladesh. This will continue for our world is a troubled one on so many fronts.

     

  • Provided several bags of exquisite knitwear to local neonatal wards (Burton, Manor and New Cross hospitals), shoes to Compton Hospice and children’s toys to Staffordshire Women’s Aid.

     

    Response:

     

    Some of these are ongoing, some need further follow-up work, some will need refinement, whilst new outreach initiatives are continually being planned for 2018/9. I will be happy to announce these in due course, just as soon as they’ve been explored by the Leadership Team and the PCC.

     

     

  1. TRANSFORMING COMMUNITIES

     

    This focuses upon:

     

  • Making stronger connections between the world of work and our Christian faith.
  • encouraging the church fellowship to engage with local community issues.
  • encouraging people to act morally and justly in our fractured world.
  • Enhancing people’s awareness and understanding of world problems and issues.

     

    What have we done?

     

  • I have to acknowledge the invaluable work of George and Sheila Green in this important area of the church’s ministry – especially for the way in which they keep us informed about  the work of humanitarian agencies such as Christian Aid. They need our ongoing love, encouragement and support.

     

  • I applaud the ministry that George & Sheila have spearheaded on our church’s behalf with ‘Hands-at-Work’ in Africa. I’m delighted that Yvonne has responded to a call to offer her support to this crucial work in southern Africa.

     

  •  I welcome George’s determination and perseverance in setting up the Green Team to work on the church’s Environmental Action Plan … and I wish the team God’s speed for their work on this during 2018/9.

     

  • I applaud the work of everyone involved in the local Food Bank. I welcome the development of the new Community Hub in Clarion Way (Cannock) and I pray that we will continue to support this initiative in whatever way we can. I was particularly pleased with our congregation’s response to the Reverse Advent initiative (Advent 2017) and hope to repeat it again this year.

     

  • Items have been placed in the Pew News routinely to encourage church members to engage with local community issues – e.g. NHS prescription charges, post-Brexit futures, Local Plan development, Four Ashes Rail Freight Interchange project, local library staffing and volunteering issues.

     

  • The introduction of quarterly ‘Whole Life Worship’ services (October 2017) has sought to identify and affirm the ministry that people of faith have on their varied frontlines.

     

  • Clergy and lay members have attended the Heath Hayes Community Forum on a regular basis.

     

  • Our church has developed a good working relationship with Heath Hayes & Wimblebury Parish Council, and gratefully acknowledges its generous support.

     

  • Many sermons have stressed the need for us all to minister on our varied frontlines, always encouraging the growth of Kingdom values and practices.

     

  • The hire of our church hall facilities to the St. John’s Nursery during the week, and to a variety of local community groups during weekday evenings.

     

  • The offering of ‘Times Past’ as a fortnightly opportunity for members of the local community to come together to share their recollections.

     

  • The ’Community Thanksgiving service for Staffordshire Police’ service (February 2018) was an attempt to bring ‘local community’ together is a spirit of appreciation and thankfulness. There has been a good deal of positive response … for the police, for the schools, for particular individuals, and for our church.

     

  • There is always a good deal of positive response to our offering of Remembrance Sunday services in Heath Hayes and Wimblebury, in the nursing homes and here within the church for those unable to walk to the Memorial Gates.

     

  • Response

Our ministry to grow God’s Kingdom requires us to reach out into a broken and troubled world – and it can be a messy and uncomfortable business that requires us to be persistent, tolerant, open-minded and tenacious. Above all, it demands humility on our part – and consistency of witness too.

 

 

  1. PRACTISING GENEROUS HOSPITALITY

     

    This focuses especially upon our need:

     

  • To give of our money, time and effort to others.
  • To offer a ministry of care to those within and beyond the church.

 

What have we done?

 

  • Our pastoral shepherding team meets regularly (x3 per annum) to review the well-being and pastoral needs of 100+ people living in the local community. I am indebted to the pastoral shepherds for their ongoing commitment.

     

  • Continued to offer services and pastoral care at local residential care homes.

     

  • Whenever and wherever possible, the clergy have attended courses and conferences as part of their ongoing ministerial development – e.g. Walsingham, Keswick, Wellesbourne, intra-Diocesan events.

     

  • Donated cash support to a number of domestic and overseas agencies – including Katherine House Hospice, The Children’s Society, Water Aid, ‘Hands-at-Work’ and the African drought appeal.

     

  • Individual members of the church been involved in fund-raising activities for local good causes .

 

PERSONAL HIGHLIGHTS OF THE YEAR – THE MOMENTS THAT ARE WORTH WAITING FOR!

 

  • New faces appearing in our congregation, some entirely new and some returning to us. This will continue for as long as we remain an open, welcoming and accessible fellowship.

     

  • The appearance in church of one confident Isla Hope Rogers for whom we had been praying.

     

  • The displays that teams of people had produced for our Harvest service (October 2017).

     

  • The bags of food brought into our church each week during December 2017 in support of our Reverse Advent initiative.

     

  • Walking into the Church Hall to the smell of fresh paint, polish and flowers.

     

  • The audible gasp from the congregation when the church was plunged into candlelight for our Christingle service on Christmas Eve.

     

  • The appearance of confident young children reading aloud their poems at the recent Police Thanksgiving service

     

  • Walking by candlelight into church at daybreak on Easter Day, being drawn forward through the darkness by the light shining out from our Empty Tomb display.

     

     

    Revd Dr. Glynne Watkin

    Vicar of Heath Hayes

    April 2018