Meeting People 2014
Reports from St Faith's Annual Parochial Church Meeting
After the morning service on Passion Sunday, April 6th, the annual statutory meetings took place in church, with some 55-60 attending.
The brief Annual Parishioners' Meeting, to which all resident in the parish or on the Electoral Roll, are entitled to vote, was originally known as the Vestry Meeting. Its sole purpose is the election of two churchwardens, and Brenda Cottarel and Rick Walker were duly elected, to take office at the forthcoming Visitation service.
The APCM itself, at which only those on the Electoral Role were entitled to vote, followed, and received the previously published official report to the diocesan authorities. This contains all required information and reports, together with the audited church accounts. Those responsible for these spoke to their contributions and were available for questioning, as were those making other contributions from the 'floor of the house'.
Following this, we listened to the Vicar's 'State of the Nation' report before proceeding to the election of new PCC members and Deanery Synod representatives.
This latter address is reproduced in full below.
A report by two Scouting Young Leaders was presented at the meeting, and may be enjoyed HERE
The official returns referred to above are may be seen HERE
Pages introducing previous APCMs are HERE
Other reports and documents will be forthcoming in due course.
The Vicar’s Report
‘Rejoice in the Lord always; I will say it again… rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to all; the Lord is at hand... Finally brethren, whatsoever things are good, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are lovely, think on these things, and the God of peace will be with you.’
Some words from the end of the Letter to the Philippians. It is a favourite piece of scripture for me; I used it for the lectio divina I did in the School of Prayer I led a few weeks ago; I preached on it in this church in 2010 when I spoke at the end of year service for Merchant Taylors’ School. And, in the version set by Purcell, in what is known as the Bell Anthem, it featured in the choral evensong that was my farewell in Walton.
And I somehow never grow tired of it; the writer’s exhortation to the Church in Philippi is full of encouragement, hope and a sense of the relentless love of God.
It is perhaps an understatement to say this has been a difficult year for St Faith’s; yet, these words to the Church in Philippi were written when they were struggling with huge difficulties; struggles with power, relationships and divisiveness within and the threat of persecution from non-Christian Rome without; these words were addressed to a Church in imminent danger of tearing itself apart.
It was ever thus; it always shocks us when things go wrong in a church – yet perhaps is should not surprise us – George McLeod, one of the founders of the Iona Community wrote that ‘wherever the veil is thin, there are both great spiritual riches and the potential for great hurt.’ Our faith touches the deepest parts of us; so it should not surprise us that when things go wrong, that too touches us in the deep places of our soul.
And I say this not to dwell on the past – but to offer you, as the writer of Philippians did two millennia ago – words of hope, encouragement and love.
Hope – for, despite the struggles, much has been said today of what the people of God here have achieved; hundreds of children full of wonder saw the Church in full glory at the Christmas Tree Festival; there have been concerts and recitals; the choir has explored new repertoire; there are large and flourishing uniformed organizations, reaching out to many young people; table sales and craft fairs do not just raise money – although they do that very effectively – but are a way for the local community to meet us and for us to serve God in serving our neighbours.
Above all, St Faith’s – for a time with the help of Fr Paul and of course Father Dennis and Mother Denise – has gone on faithfully worshipping God in word and in sacrament and being sent out to serve God in the world.
So there is much to rejoice at – all this has gone on and more.
And there is much to hope for; I have already said I have come with great joy – wanting to be here; and my task in the 18 months ahead is to work with you to enable you to think, thoughtfully and prayerfully, with regard for what is good, true and lovely – the shape of the Church of God in this place in the coming years. That is not a quick or an easy task; it is not something that we will finish in 18 months, but begin it we must.
Nor do any of us know fully how God will work his purpose out; but we must, within all our human limitations, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and with our sisters and brothers in the Deanery and particularly the four churches in the Waterloo Group try to discern the shape of living that God wills for his church here; and we must do it honestly and openly, with due regard for our tradition, but not making an idol of tradition either. We need to think, as Christian adults, appropriately and soberly and seriously, about our stewardship – of money, but also of time, energy, resources, and buildings. All churches must do this, and we are no exception.
One place we might start – and I have written about this in the Magazine – is with the idea of Parish – the Paroikos, the household of those who somehow both belong and yet are at the same time are in exile. It is significant that our Electoral Roll gives us a picture of a church as a gathered congregation – ¾ of it live outside the Parish, albeit many locally. This is true of many Anglican churches up and down the country – perhaps especially those of a distinctive tradition. Yet – the Church of England is not congregational but parochial – there is nowhere in England that is not somebody’s pastoral responsibility, that is not prayed for. So even as some of us are in exile geographically from this place, and make efforts to be here on Sunday, we must face the question of how we are to engage with those at home here, in this parish, but who are in exile – from the Church, from faith – perhaps from themselves? We have made a start in praying for our parish street by street; but how are we to begin to reach out to those who belong to us, are our responsibility, are those God has given to us, yet do not belong?
Not an easy question; but one we need to begin to address. Timothy Ratcliffe, the Dominican monk and writer wrote a book ‘why go to church?’ – and the final sentence of that book answers it in one way – ‘to be sent out again!’ – we don’t go to church for our own sake alone, although we are built by the sacraments and formed in God’s image – but so that we can proclaim the joy and hope of the Gospel for all our neighbours; our task in the coming months is to consider what that might look like in practice – not just for now, not just for the coming years, not just for the coming decades, but until that time when sacraments cease and all things are gathered into the Kingdom.