The Vicar’s Address to The Annual Parochial Church Meeting
Someone very wise once said, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Accordingly, a year ago we undertook a complete review of our church life in which we canvassed the views and insights of the whole congregation and others to establish our Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. At their Awayday last April, the PCC identified real aims and objectives with concrete action points to realise these aims and objectives in a Mission Action Plan covering five areas. Many of these have been achieved, and I want to recognise and applaud those achievements. We should not be afraid to give ourselves a good pat on the back!
We recognised that while we have a long catholic tradition of
worship, with good choral music, if our tradition, let alone St
Paul’s church itself, was to develop and survive in the long term,
our worship needed to be more inclusive. In other words, we needed
to provide something for everyone. In September we began a new
monthly pattern of worship. We initiated the All Age Eucharists on
the first Sunday of each month beginning last September, which have
been largely very well received and have attracted more families
with children. Please let me be clear, this development is
absolutely vital for the long term future and survival of St Paul’s.
Also on the first Sunday evening of each month, we have held a
service of Sermon and Compline which has also proved to be popular.
2. Profile and Communication
We have taken steps to raise our profile and improve our publicity. The old parish website was universally regarded as dismal and inadequate; this has been replaced with a brand new, professionally designed website, which was launched just in time for Christmas. We have also updated our Wikipedia entry and are in the process of renewing our entry on the Church of England’s site: ‘A Church Near You’. New displays and ‘A boards’ have been produced for the North Porch and Narthex, and new main noticeboards at each end of the churchyard will, I hope, appear within the next two months. I wish to thank David Walker for his work on the graphic design of the boards and Wendy Jones for her indefatigable efforts with the diocese and local planning authority to get us what we need. Although we still have other projects in the pipeline, we have completed major steps.
3. Education and Training
Last summer we surveyed the congregation to get an idea of what people need and would like. To date we have run workshops on leading intercessions, safeguarding and a Study afternoon on St Luke’s Gospel; events this term include reading in church and on the evening of 24 May Extraordinary Luke in Ordinary Time: featuring the parables and miracles. All of us have to take personal responsibility for our growth and understanding; so I hope that these events will be well attended. We are already planning events from next term onwards. Our thanks to James Beauchamp for taking the lead in much of this.
4. Pastoral Care
I wish to pay tribute to our Pastoral Team of clergy and lay ministers who share the burden of visits to individuals and care homes. Nevertheless, we are anxious to improve our pastoral care. Although we have a well kept Electoral Roll and a list of members of the congregation who, for whatever reason do not wish to be entered on the Roll; we are also aware of others who perhaps come and go and whose needs we need to pick up on. So we are examining ways of looking after everyone better.
5. Community Engagement
The term ‘Outreach’ had perhaps become too narrowly used to refer
mainly to the raising and outward giving of money. I wish to place
on record our thanks to Rita Brereton who has masterminded most of
this valuable work, which continues now under the banner of ‘Outward
Giving’. The term ‘Outreach’ embraces, of course, a wider range of
activities with which we need to be more involved, now under the
banner of ‘Community Engagement’. Such community engagement begins
with presence: being seen and present in our community, and embraces
the welcoming of people, helping them, sharing the love of Christ
with them and, when appropriate, his Good News. Much of this
community engagement overlaps with the pastoral care David Walker
speaks of in his report. Key to presence is the vital necessity of
keeping the church open every day. This is the bottom line. I really
do salute and thank all the Welcomers and church watchers for their
ministry. However, when a welcomer is not available, we have to
close the church, and I get a chilling glimpse of the consequences
of abandoning our presence in the town centre and the fragile future
that we and others would not enjoy. We do need more people to help,
so if you could just spare a couple of hours each week, please speak
I draw to a close by repeating what I said last Summer, how good
it has been to have Fr Phil with us, who has (not to spare his
blushes) proved to be a real asset to us, as he learns the work and
ministry of a deacon and, soon to be, a priest. I reiterate what I
said earlier this evening, in my appreciation of members of the PCC,
all the committees and especially my appreciation of James Collett-White
and Wendy Jones as really wonderful, wise, hard working and