Rector's Report 2017
The Past year
As ever we have lost a number of people who have been loyal members of the church over the years. Mary Frost, Leslie Baird who had spent the last couple of years at Eastlake, and Bert’s sister Doreen Kirby who usually came to the communion service at Bowring House have all died over the course of the year. There is Colin Manning who always had such a warm welcome for me when I took him communion. And of course there is Ron Hall, much in our minds today. As always, too, new people have joined the church and I was delighted very recently when Daniel Ryan decided he wanted to take the step of being baptised and confirmed, which happened at St Michael’s Sheerwater on Palm Sunday. Of the people leaving the church, some have moved out of the area while others have been Messy Church regulars whose children have outgrown that sort of thing and have, I think, stopped attending any kind of worship, which is revealing in itself.
As I mentioned last year, the links between Toddler Group, Messy Church and the Infants School are now very clear. What’s less clear is how we work on those links and develop them. I’m convinced that we really need to help the adults who bring their children to what we lay on for them discover more about their own faith, but how we do that is what needs work.
On a personal level I’ve spent over a year now as chaplain to the ATC. Over that time the number of cadets has roughly doubled, which is nothing to do with me but it does mean I stand no chance of remembering anything more than a handful of names! It’s good for me to be involved with but although the Corps includes a number of familiar Farncombe faces the youngsters actually come from far and wide and aren’t all, or even mostly, parishioners of Farncombe.
You will have noticed that although we are not a church that produces much in the way of vocations ourselves, we continue to be a place where the diocese sends ordinands to have a taste of proper religion. Donna of course is being ordained this Petertide, and today is the end of Mike Currier’s placement as he returns to the parish of Shere. Ian Stonehouse who was with us on a similar placement last year is reaching the end of his deacon’s year at Leatherhead and will be ordained priest soon, and Sarb Klair from Busbridge who spent a while with us and was confirmed here by Bishop Christopher back in 2013 is about to be ordained and will serve his title at Thames Ditton. Finally please also pray for Harriet who is Richard and Jean Stevens’s daughter. The Stevenses come to the 8am service and Harriet is about to be ordained in the diocese of Chichester.
2016-17 has been the year when we settled and began working through our Mission Plan. The PCC took a deliberate decision that at first we would look at internal and external communication and much of our action points have actually been achieved, such as devising a welcome pack and reorganising the Narthex area. One of my jobs was to arrange a Mystery Worshipper visit and when Lucy Lidstrom, who is one of the Infant School parent-governors, came to sample a 10am mass just before Easter she sent a report whose terms were so glowingly complimentary it was almost embarrassing! – almost.
Our target was to reassess the Mission Plan in May this year. I expect we’ll have to spend a bit of the next year thinking through our other targets and ideas and drafting a new version of the Plan ready for Spring 2018. The focus this time will be on identifying and working with groups of people who we aren’t yet serving as effectively as we should, understanding that everyone needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ and our responsibility as a parish church is to bring him to everyone. It’s for the church as a whole to set its priorities over the term of the new Plan, and if it isn’t a process we work out together it won’t work as well as it would otherwise have done. However, three things I think are going to be important are: the Greensand Park estate on Furze Lane which is due to be completed in the Autumn though it will probably overrun as these things usually do – another few hundred souls, perhaps, moving into Farncombe Parish; an enquirer’s course or something like it for grown-ups whose children are Messy Church regulars; and thinking again about our Family Service pattern and whether that links families with young children into the eucharistic life of the Church or whether it separates them from it. I leave those three things hanging in the air for you!
The Lent Course this year worked through the Twelve Church Principles which I introduced to the church in September and which (I add yet again to avoid confusion) are nothing to do with Bishop Andrew’s Twelve Transforming Church Goals! Some of the wording of the Twelve Principles will be tweaked and then I’ll be thinking about what happens to them next. You may remember, though it’s fast retreating into the past, the sermon series I did in 2015 on the Anglican Catechism. I’ve spent a little while working this up into a book form and if I can get around to it I may have this printed off for people to use.
Now, brothers and sisters, as I said last year, I will repeat this: there are no guarantees as we look ahead. God has promised that the gates of Hell will not prevail against his Church, but he doesn’t mean St John’s Church in Farncombe, nor even the Church of England. I believe that we have a future as part of that great Church, the Body of Christ in every time and place, but that we have work to do if that’s to be proved true. We as a Christian community may not make it through this time of great trial on the Church of Jesus Christ, but that’s only a minor aim. Our prior and greater aim is to fulfil our vocation as baptised children of God, and to introduce him to those around us so they can know what that means too.