The Rector Writes
Dear friends in Christ,
My wishes and prayers for a happy 2016 to you all.
I know it is a sign of age when you think life is passing by quickly, but boy, 2015 seemed to go faster than ever. Yet as I think back on the year, I am very aware of a real warmth and joy in my soul, a sense of having achieved good things together, and of being led by God.
New faces and new families have arrived to continue renewal going on in our church, and they are contributing to our children’s work and our music in particular. We said goodbye to our organist Anthony, and Gary slipped ably onto the organ bench to help us out until we decide what to do with both the appointment of a new organist, and the planning of a new/restored organ. Penny and I have baptised over 50 children this year, and Messy Church continues to introduce dozens of young families to the Way of Jesus, and is a vibrant and happy place to be. We have welcomed people into the building for a wide variety of activities, alongside beautiful liturgies, and so many comments on what an inviting and inspiring place it feels.
Many of you will remember the Civic Service on June 7th, when the Church was packed in celebration of our local Councillor Andy Verdeille becoming Mayor, and we had the joy of welcoming Bishop Libby Lane, the Church of England’s first (and at that point only) female bishop. Mayor Andy was back with us only a few weeks ago as ITV chose St Elisabeth’s as the venue for their Christmas Carol Concert. The experience of having them in the church was thoroughly positive, and the final programme was stunning. I felt it was a real privilege to be part of the act of bringing God’s story into the living rooms of millions of people on Christmas Eve. Many of our congregation chose to apply for tickets to be there, and you will have seen some of them if you watched the programme. If you missed it, or would like a permanent copy, then for £2 you can buy a DVD from us.
You all know how the growth of Re:dish has changed and shaped our profile in the town, and this year we have been at the heart of some extraordinary good little (and large) things happening in the neighbourhood, amongst the elderly, the young, the isolated and the struggling. Over 500 local families benefited from the emergency help which the Foodbank gives, and in 2016 there will be further opportunities for everyone at St Elisabeth’s to feel that they are involved in this caring and sharing work.
As a we continue to look outward as well as inward, and the process of developing and using our beautiful church building for different events takes more steps forward, we will make sure that along with the newness and growth and change, the everyday repetitive things are done carefully. I mean the cleaning, the ordering, the making of teas, washing of linens, the preparation of the alter, service sheets and flowers, the recycling of paper, the tidying of the garden, the banking of money. Much of this work goes unnoticed but unless these jobs are done faithfully and regularly things begin to fall apart, and we cannot focus on worshipping God and caring for one another. So a huge ‘thank you’ to all who worked at these things all year, with a special mention to Noreen, Derek and Terry for their outstanding support.
2016 will no doubt bring more surprises and more growth. We can only build when God goes before us, when we are committed to individual and corporate prayer for our Church, when we look for God’s guidance before we act.
We are right to be excited, because God is at work amongst us.
At the beginning of the new year, the Methodist Church has a practice of inviting its members to renew their commitment to following God. As usual, this year we used it too, pledging ourselves to follow God whatever the circumstances of our lives, content with all that God gives in love, and reliant on His grace to be sufficient for all that we face.
My thoughts and prayers are with you all, for a healthy and happy beginning to the New Year.
Yours in Christ,