Friday, 18 December 2009

Love Christmas!

A long time ago in Bethlehem, Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph. It's been so long. It happened so far away... and yet Christmas is more popular than ever.

We love the fact that all across the world, people will take a break from their usual routines. Many will share a special get-together with family and friends. Thousands will decorate their homes, prepare food and give presents. And our church will be full of people of all ages and backgrounds because a real Christmas starts with Christ.

We'd love you to join in. Because the love at the heart of Christmas is God's love - the generous, gracious gift of a Saviour - and that's worth celebrating!

Special Christmas Services at St Paul's:

  • Sunday 20 December - Carols by Candlelight 4.00 to 5.30pm and 7.00pm to 8.30pm (service repeated)
  • Christmas Eve - Christingle service 4.00 to 5.00pm, especially for younger children
  • Christmas Eve - Midnight communion service - 11.30pm to 12.30am
  • Christmas Day - Family communion service - 10.00 to 11.00am

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Christmas Toy and Gift Service 2009

We collected over seventy specially chosen presents from members of our congregation last Sunday for the annual Christmas Gift Service.

These will go to children and young people at a number of projects and hostels for supporting those in special need. Some are homeless, some are fleeing domestic violence.

We hope that these gifts will bring a little cheer on Christmas Day. Thank you to all who contributed so generously.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Register now for Alpha 2010

We're looking forward to another great Alpha Course, beginning at St Paul's on 26 January. I'm just about to send out postal invitations to people who might be interested.

The Alpha Course is an opportunity for anyone to explore the Christian faith.

It's relaxed, low key, friendly and fun.

There is a meal together at the beginning of each session, which gives our guests an opportunity to get to know each other.

Listen, learn, discuss and discover. And ask anything.

If you, or someone you know is interested and you'd like to recieve an invitation, please email me with your details and I'll get one straight to you.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Titus Wordled

Wordle: Paul's Letter to Titus
We're in the middle of a short sermon series on the Letter of Paul to Titus. This is how Wordle renders the complete text (the more frequently a word appears, the larger it appears). Click on the image for a large picture.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

District Church Council Meeting - November 2009

Last night's DCC was very positive with lots of animated conversation, commitment and prayer. Among other topics, we:
  • Heard a presentation from John Fryer, Children's Work Adviser for the Diocese of Leicester. John spoke in relation to our exploration Where are the Children? He commended the DCC's honesty and commitment to responding to a challenging and changing situation. He confirmed that the issues are widespread and many churches are in a similar position to ourselves. We had an open conversation about finding new ways to engage with children, both in church and in the wider community.
  • Decided to continue inviting an offering, rather than taking a collection.
  • Set a balanced budget for 2010.
  • Confirmed rates for letting our buildings for 2010.
  • Decided to offer the books from the old church library, which have been in storage for several years, to the congregation.

Bringing our offering, not taking a collection

A new way of giving
At its November meeting yesterday, St Paul's District Church Council decided to continue receiving the gifts of church members on an open plate, rather than by passing collection bags as we used to do. The DCC decided that we should do this at least until Easter 2010, and that we should make the offering plate more obvious and easy to find.

St Paul's has traditionally passed collection bags along the rows of worshippers during the service. With the introduction of swine 'flu precations we left an open plate for donations instead.

Our members give over £1000 each week to support the work of our church and the mission projects we resource. That represents a wonderful generosity and we are very grateful. We ask people to think about the gift they make rather than to find notes and coins as the collection bags approach. The 'stewardship' planned giving scheme is a great way to encourage this. People who give by cash or cheque place their gift in an envelope and place them in the offering. Of course, many people give by standing order, which is an excellent way of giving reliably and realistically. The opportunity to give by standing order will remain. To join the stewardship scheme, please see David Foulds.

What does the Bible say about the way Christians should give?
In the Bible, money was brought to the Temple treasury. Jesus condemned the abuses of the moneychangers, who received the people's gifts in ways that cheated them. In Mark 12.41-44 we read how he watched the wealthy bringing in substantial gifts to the treasury but he commended the giving of the widow who gave all that she had, even two small coins.

In Matthew 6.1-4, Jesus warns against giving as a way of showing off. "Whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet... so that you may be praised. ...But give in secret... and your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

Our hopes
We hope that inviting giving without passing bags along the rows of worshippers will remove some of the awkwardness, especially for visitors. We hope it will counter the idea of taking a collection (which to outsiders, can sometimes looks like a "whip-round for cash"!) Instead, in inviting an offering given generously from "first fruits" rather than spare change, brought before God in prayer and worship, without awkwardness or embarrassment, we hope it will glorify God and serve his church.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Hiring our rooms

I am approached several times a week by people who wish to hire our rooms. We have a policy to use our buildings to serve the local community, both as an expression of our commitment to our neighbourhood and as a way of raising funds to support our Christian ministry in Oadby. We're thrilled that this has been an area of enormous growth in recent years.

The main church and the Barnabas Centre are available for hire for community groups and courses but not for private parties or social functions. We take particular care to work in partnership with groups and welcome members of other faith communities. But we also ensure that activities are not incompatible with the prime reason for our work - worshipping God in the Christian faith.

The charges for 2010 are £17 per hour for the Barnabas Centre and £17 per hour for the church.

To book the church or Barnabas Centre, contact Cynthia on the new bookings line - 07931 726661, or by email.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Nick Griffin does not speak for Christians

This blog is not primarily a place for this vicar to express his personal opinions. As a proud husband and father in a mixed-race family, you might already imagine how I feel about the things the leader of the British National Party said during a recent televised debate. So I intend to say little about what has been widely reported elsewhere.

But as a church leader in a multi-cultural, multi-faith town, I cannot allow one of his specific claims to go unopposed.

During the Question Time broadcast, Nick Griffin suggested that the views of the BNP are consistent with Christianity. They are not.

The era in which the New Testament was written was as culturally complex as our own. The first Christians were Jews, who might have naturally thought that other people had no part in the church. They quickly learned that the Christian faith is open to all people, regardless of their ethnicity or how "indigenous" they might be.

In Colossians 3.11, we read, there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

Amen to that!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

New Readers (Lay Ministers) in Leicester Diocese

It's been a privilege to accompany another eight people through vocational interviews, selection and training. They joined a former Methodist Lay Preacher in being licensed as new Readers in the Diocese of Leicester at the cathedral last Saturday.

The role of Warden of Readers, which I've held during the last five years, brings quite a workload but it's been immensely fulfilling. I'm grateful to the parish for allowing me the time to carry out these extra duties.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Principal services in November and December 2009

Before Advent, we're exploring one of the shortest books of the Bible, Paul's Letter to Titus. It's a fascinatingly personal piece of writing, in a very specific time and place. But it also points to eternal truths about us and about God.

In Advent itself, our attention turns to the promised Saviour. Week by week we share the hopes and longings of the Jewish nation, as they looked forward to the day when a Messiah would appear.

Christmas services at St Paul's have been more popular than ever, so this year for the first time we're holding two Carols by Candlelight services, both on 20 December.

We hope you'll join us at these services as we discover fresh insights into the purpose and plans of God.

1 November 10.00am Holy Communion
Why Paul left Titus in Crete
Titus 1.1-2.1

8 November 10.00am All together church, after Breakfast at Barney's
Being friends with Jesus
Luke 19.1-10

15 November 10.00am Holy Communion
Speak up, Titus!
Titus 2.2-15

22 November 10.00am The Word Service
Reborn and renewed
Titus 3

29 November 10.00am The Word Service
Watch out!
1 Thessalonians 3.9-end & Luke 21.25-36

6 December 10.00am Holy Communion
A voice cries out
Philippians 1.3-11 & Luke 3.1-6

13 December 10.00am Christmas Toy and Gift Service, after Breakfast at Barney's
Giving your life to God
Romans 10:9-13

20 December 10.00am The Word Service
Mary and Elizabeth
Hebrews 10.5-10 & Luke 1.39-45

20 December 4.00pm and 7.00pm (two services)
Carols by Candlelight

24 December 4.00pm
Christingle Service

24 December 11.30pm
Midnight Communion
Isaiah 9.2-7 & Luke 2.1-14

25 December 10.00am
Family Christmas Communion
Hebrews 1.1-4 & John 1.1-14

27 December 10.00am Joint Parish Service of Holy Communion
An amazing boy
Colossians 3.12-17 & Luke 2.41-end

Planning a Church Wedding

A marriage service, wherever it is held, is a public declaration of love and lifelong commitment to your partner.

But a service in church brings an added dimension - the assurance that God cares about your relationship and that his resources and strength are available to help you. Including God in your marriage doesn’t mean that you will avoid all the usual ups and downs, but you will know that you can look to God for help and guidance and that his love will sustain you. You will also have the support and encouragement of the Christian Church family.

This article is a basic guide to some of the important issues. However, it is not possible here to give full legal information relating to marriages and in the case of doubt you must take appropriate advice.

A Church of England Marriage Service is a legally-recognised ceremony as well as an occasion for worship and celebration. The form of service is governed by law. After declaring their ability and desire to marry, the couple exchange solemn vows and give and receive ring(s). The minister declares them to be married and the service concludes with prayers and blessings. There are important legal preliminaries to a ceremony of marriage, which must be observed carefully.

A service of Prayer and Dedication after a Civil Marriage is sometimes known as a Blessing. This service can follow immediately after a civil marriage (e.g. in a Register Office) for couples in circumstances where it would not be possible to have a church wedding. Alternatively, couples who have been married for some time may wish to dedicate their life together to God. The couple begin the service as married people, and there is no giving of rings, though a prayer over the rings is offered. In the dedication the couple resolve to be faithful to each other and pray that in offering themselves to God that they may grow in unity, love and peace. The minister prays for God to bless the marriage which has already taken place.

The service of Thanksgiving for Marriage may be used to celebrate an anniversary, or in the renewed commitment following a time of difficulty in a marriage. The form of service is flexible and often includes the renewal of wedding vows, in which the couple recall and reaffirm the commitment they made on their wedding day.

What is the situation for marriage after a divorce?
The Church of England teaches that marriage is for life. It also recognises that, sadly, some marriages do fail and, if this should happen, it seeks to be available for all involved. The Church accepts that, in some circumstances, a divorced person may marry again in church during the lifetime of a former spouse.

The clergy of Oadby Parish are willing to conduct such a marriage in church, subject to the regulations which govern them. The minister will want to talk to you frankly about the past, your hopes for the future and your understanding of marriage. If it is not possible for your proposed marriage to take place in church, the minister may consider other alternatives with you.

Am I entitled to be married in Church?
You are entitled to be married in St Peter's or St Paul's if one or both of you live in the Parish of Oadby, or where you can demonstrate a “significant qualifying connection” with St Peter's or St Paul's Church. Significant qualifying connections can include:
  • you were baptised in in the Parish of Oadby; have your confirmation entered in a church register book of St Peter's or St Paul's churches; have had your usual place of residence in the parish for at least six months; or have habitually attended public worship at St Peter's or St Paul's for at least six months at some point in your life;
  • or, your parent has had his or her usual place of residence in the parish for at least six months during your lifetime; or habitually attended public worship at St Peter's or St Paul's for at least six months during your lifetime;
  • or, your parent or grandparent was married in the parish.The precise rules are complicated, so please check with us to be sure.
You don’t have to be baptised to be married in Church following banns, but an understanding of the Christian faith is important if the service is to be meaningful for you.

Can I have a Church Wedding at another venue?

You may only have a Church of England wedding in a parish church or some other place of worship - normally one licensed by the Bishop. It is not possible to have a religious wedding in other venues, for instance in a hotel.

What are the legal requirements?

Banns are the normal legal preliminary for a marriage service. You must have your banns read out in church on three Sundays during the three months before the wedding. Banns are an announcement of your intention to marry and a chance for anyone to put forward a reason why the marriage may not lawfully take place.

Banns need to be read in the parish where each of you lives as well as at the church in which you are to be married. It is your responsibility to ensure that the correct information for calling the banns is given to the minister of the appropriate parish churches at the right time. Banns are not required for Prayer and Dedication after a Civil Marriage or Thanksgiving for Marriage.
If either of you is a foreign national, it is usually preferable to marry after obtaining a Common Licence, instead of banns, to ensure that your marriage is legally recognised in your home country.

If you are under the age of eighteen, you must have your parents’ consent to marry.

How much will our wedding cost?
Each January, a new fees table is published which shows all the options. As a guide, at St Paul's our fees are around £500.

Who will be the minister at our wedding?
Normally, one of the parish clergy will officiate.

How do I book the Church? As soon as you have decided you would like to get married in church, get in touch with Rev’d Simon Harvey (0116 271 0519 or Simon will help you with the first stages of making the booking and let you know which minister in the parish will be taking your wedding.

The minister taking your service will wish to meet with you in person to discuss your plans.

A £100, non-returnable deposit will secure your booking.

Are resources available online?

If you have access to the internet, you’ll find a wealth of online resources about weddings. You might like to try these:

Where are the children?

We're thankful to God that St Paul's is a growing church. We're seeing more people join us each year and it's wonderful that people are finding faith and encouragement here.

But behind the overall figures, we're concerned that the number of children in our church has fallen substantially. So we're reflecting carefully and praying in order to understand more clearly the reasons for the change and also to seek God's leading in response.

The attendances at our all-age worship service last Sunday, and on the corresponding Sunday in 2003, illustrate the point really well. The proportion of adults is shown on these charts in red, children in blue.

The District Church Council (DCC) has been considering these issues and has committed to two one-hour prayer meetings, to which the whole church is invited. These are on 4 November, from 7.30 to 8.30pm in the Barnabas Centre, and on 22 November, from 6.30 to 7.30pm in the Church.

You can also read the full analysis that the DCC is exploring.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

What is the difference between greed and gluttony?

Simon told us in his sermon:

Greed is when you overdo the desire to possess things, gluttony is the desire to consume more than you need. Just look at Simon's breakfast Noodle Pot!

Friday, 9 October 2009

The common cup returns

The timing feels a little strange, given that the second wave of the flu pandemic is upon us, but with infections at a lower rate than first feared and no sign of the disease becoming more deadly, the Bishop's advice this week requested that we return to sharing the common cup at services of Holy Communion.

I welcome this. Giving communion as bread alone was a non-starter for us. But intincting bread with wine makes the distribution a little cumbersome. Had the return to our customary practice been delayed for many more months, I fear it would be hard for many people to do so.

We want to be sensitive to the needs of people who feel at particular risk, so at least for the time being we'll make it possible for them to have the bread intincted with wine. But for the rest of us, we return to being one people, sharing one bread and one cup, as of Sunday 18 October.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The problem we all have with gluttony

Our sermon series on the seven deadly sins continues this Sunday, with gluttony. We'll even give you the chance for some last-minute practical research as the monthly Breakfast at Barney's takes place from 8.30am to 9.30am.

Come and take your fill of good, traditional breakfast cuisine and then settle down for an all-age service in which we're looking at the problem we all have with gluttony.

Gluttony isn't just a matter of overeating. Our appetites, if indulged to excess, can lead us into all kinds of trouble. We'll be looking at the issues and at what the Bible teaches about a topic that affects us all.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Bus it to church

We may be Oadby's best-kept secret, hidden away on a housing estate on the north side of the A6, but at least we're on a bus route.

On Sunday mornings, Arriva's first 31 of the day winds its way from stand C25 in Charles Street at 09:42, then blasts down a traffic-free London Road to Oadby's Parade at 09:56. It's then up onto our estate, reaching the bus stop on Severn Road at 10:04.

Granted, this means that you'll walk into church during the first hymn, but we don't mind.

The 31 runs every fifteen minutes, so getting back into Leicester again after the service is no great hassle.

Full details of the 31 route and timetable on Arriva's website.

Update 5 October. I've just asked Arriva if they can despatch the first 31 of the Sabbath ten minutes earlier. Will keep you posted.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Reasons to be cheerful - Bishop's Lay Congress 14 November 2009

The 2009 Bishop's Lay Congress is titled, Reasons to be cheerful; sharing faith in everyday life

It's on Saturday 14 November, at Samworth Enterprise Academy, Trenant Road, Leicester, LE2 6TF - 9.15am - 3.30pm and here's the information received from our diocese's publicity team:

This is an opportunity for lay people to spend a day with the Bishop of Leicester reflecting on how it is that we can both enjoy and share our faith more fully in everyday life with guest speaker the Rt. Revd Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Reading.

Bishop Stephen has worked in parishes in London, Chichester, as Pastor of Peterborough Cathedral, as Missioner in the Wakefield Diocese and as part of Springboard, the Archbishop's evangelism team. He has written widely about evangelism, spirituality and discipleship. Among his recent books are 'From the Abundance of the Heart: Catholic Evangelism for all Christians (DLT 2006), Do Nothing to Change your Life; discovering what happens when you stop (CHP 2007), Hit the Ground Kneeling; seeing leadership differently (CHP 2008) and a book of Lent and Holy Week meditations The Things He Carried (SPCK 2008). He is married to Rebecca and they have three boys.

The Programme

9.15 - Arrival and Registration
9.14 - Introductions
10.15 - Bishop Stephen Cottrell
11.00 - Coffee
11.30 - Bishop Stephen Cottrell
12.00 - Group discussions
12.45 - Lunch (please bring your own)
1.45 - Questions & Answers with Bishop Stephen
2.15 - Questions & Answers with Bishop Tim
2.45 - Worship
3.30 - Close

Refreshments provided

Leaflets with booking forms are now available to pick up in church. Alternatively visit the diocesan website and download the form.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

YFRIDAY in Leicester 11 October 2009

Tim Warner of St Luke's Church, Thurnby, has sent me details of YFriday's forthcoming Great and Glorious event in Leicester.

He writes:

YFRIDAY - GREAT & GLORIOUS with special guest Noel Richards in support
An all age, all family, all church, all denomination, all inclusive, One God Worship Event!
Sunday 11th October 2009, 7pm at Athena in Leicester (the old Odeon cinema)

We have just 1000 tickets available for this fantastic event - unprecedented in Leicester - so please hurry.

This event is open the the whole church family, any age, with special discounts for ages 8 & under.

Churches are being encouraged to use this event in place of their normal Sunday evening service - or as one if you don't already run one. So please get behind this and give your support - let's show just how great our God is!

1000 voices, of all ages, joining together in common worship for 2 hours - make sure you remember where YOU were on the evening of October 11th 2009!

See you there!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The problem we all have with anger

What pushes your buttons?

Whether you sit and fume or steam into a full-blown rage, we all know what it's like to be angry, or to feel the anger of someone else's fury.

This Sunday at the ten o'clock service we're looking at the roots of anger, exploring its power and finding Christian insights to help us overcome its destructiveness.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Back to Church?

This is a re-post of a feature I wrote in February 2008. I thought it might be helpful for those coming to St Paul's on Back to Church Sunday.

What happens in church?

It's a great question. A few weeks ago I was talking with a couple who had never been to a regular service in church. They wanted to ask about being married in church and I was glad to help with their questions. We'd been talking for a while and I assured them that they'd be welcome at any of our services.
"Really?" they asked. "Do we need to let you know in advance that we're coming?" I was able to tell them that there's no need to book and that church is for everyone.
If you've never been to church before, or never been to our church at St Paul's, you'll have lots of questions about what actually happens. I remember going to church for the first time as an adult of 23 years old and, to be frank, I wasn't looking forward to it. If someone had told me a little about what lay in store, I'd have felt a lot more relaxed.

Does is cost anything to come to church?

No - it's always free. There's never an admission charge for worship. Every service (including every wedding and funeral) is a public event. You'll be welcome if you have a deep Christian faith, or if you believe in another faith or if you have no faith at all.
We usually take a collection during the service. A collection bag is passed along the rows and people put their donation for the running of the church and the organisations we support into the bag. No one can see who gives and who doesn't. Many people make their donation by standing order, so they just pass the bag on. You don't have to give anything but if you do, we're very grateful.

What should I wear?

People come to St Paul's in all sorts. Some in tee shirts and jeans, some in shirt and tie. Wear what you want! If you really want me to tell you what to wear, choose what you'd wear for a simple meal at a pub or cafe with friends.

What time does it start?

The main Sunday service is at 10:00am. Some people begin to arrive from 9:30 - that's great if you want to get the best seats but you may sit there for a while and wonder where everyone is. (Some of the 'regulars' often slip in at the last minute!)
If it's your first time, come at about 9.50am. By then we'll be almost ready, there'll be someone friendly at the door to say hello. Sit wherever you like - no one at our church gets fussy about who sits where.
Use the time before the service to relax and settle down. Just like the cinema, getting yourself in the right frame of mind and ready for the service itself will help enormously. Many people take a moment to pray quietly. Others like to greet their friends.

Where can I park?

There's a car park at the back of church but it starts to fill early. Park on the street if you can do so courteously and safely but try not to use the road in front of church, which isn't wide. Remember our neighbours who have to get their cars out. The Blues pub just around the corner has a huge car park and they're happy for us to use it on Sunday mornings.

Will everyone know that I'm a visitor?

No they won't. We're a busy church and lots of visitors come along. You might feel like you're the only stranger but you won't be. Having said that, don't be surprised if people look as though they're glad to see you - we enjoy having visitors and newcomers. Why not take the initiative and say hello to someone who looks friendly. I guarantee they will be.

I've got small children. Help!

Church is for babies, toddlers, children, teenagers, and adults. We have a range of groups for children of every age and a creche if you want to use it.
We understand that small children find it hard to sit still and to be quiet. If they get really noisy, take them into the sidechapel (there's a loudspeaker in there, so you'll still be able to hear the service). We've also got child-friendly toilets and baby-changing facilities.

How will I know when to stand or sit?

Two ways. First, the minister taking the service will always invite the congregation to stand or sit. Second, just do what everyone else does.
There are parts of the service where standing just feels right. It helps us sing better and it shows particular respect at especially significant times of the service. If you find it hard to stand, then it's quite alright to stay sitting all the time.

I don't like singing/I'm worried that I won't know the hymns and songs

I bet there's no one in our church who knows every song we sing. We love traditional hymns at St Paul's but we also sing praises to God in the newest songs. If you don't know the song, don't worry. Don't sing if you don't want to.

What are all the different parts of the service for?

Every service follows a kind of pattern. We're fairly flexible, so the pattern changes.
Think of a meal in a restaurant. You might begin with a drink at the bar, then move to your table and enjoy some poppadums (I eat a lot of curries!). The first course is followed by the main dish, then there's dessert and coffee.
In the same way, the service includes a sequence which helps us worship God. We usually start with a hymn of praise, then prayers that help us realise that we all need God's forgiveness and strength. Then we listen to readings from the Bible and hear a sermon which explains how these are relevant for our lives today. We pray for the world around us and then, at a communion service, we prepare to share the bread and wine in remembrance of Jesus. Finally we hear God's blessing for the week that lies before us.

This is complicated. What if I don't understand everything?

It will probably feel complicated to begin with. But you don't need to understand everything. Come with an open mind and I guarantee that you'll find something helpful. Come expecting to meet with God in a special way and I promise you will.

Is it alright to laugh?

Yes, we laugh at some point in most services. We don't take ourselves too seriously and there's a lot to be happy about. But we're not a bunch of 'happy-clappy' idiots. Life is tough for many people and sometimes worship is so moving that people have to wipe away a tear. We're not afraid of that either.

Am I allowed to take the bread and wine? What should I do?

Christians believe that when we share holy communion we experience God in a special way. The Bible insists that we do this with the right attitude and after careful thought, so it's never a casual or trivial thing to do.
We have communion services twice a month and nearly everyone in church goes to the front to receive the bread and wine. If you don't wish to, you'd be welcome to come forward with everyone else and simply keep your hands down. That's the way that the minister will know that you don't want to receive. Instead, he or she will pray a short (one-sentence) prayer of blessing for you. If you prefer to stay in your seat, that's alright too.
If you want to receive the bread and wine, then your welcome, as long as you are baptised (or 'christened') and are sincere in wanting to follow Jesus as your Lord. Communion is normally for adults, or for children who have been confirmed. If you have children who have not been confirmed, bring them to the communion and we'll pray a prayer of blessing. You could share your bread with them if you wish.

What happens after the service?

The service usually finishes between 11.00 (at a family service) and 11.30 (at a communion service). Almost everyone stays behind in church for a cup of tea, coffee or squash and to chat to friends. Church isn't just a social club, but it's great to get to know people and enjoy company.

What are the most important things for a newcomer to remember?

  1. Be yourself. God loves you as you are and wants to help you be the person he made you to be.
  2. Before the service, pray. You can do this at home before you set off. Find a quiet spot, relax and pray something like this, "God, help me to worship you today. Open my heart to you, calm me down and show me one thing that you want me to remember. Amen."
  3. Ask questions if there's something you want explained or something you want to know about. Ask anyone - if they don't know, they'll find someone who does.

The Jesus Prayer

We ended yesterday's sermon The problem we all have with pride, by reciting The Jesus Prayer. It's the best antidote for the twin pitfalls of self-obsession, which at the opposite extremes, are arrogance and self-hatred.

The prayer has been used for centuries in the Orthodox Church and has only come to prominence in the west in recent decades. It combines two of the most profound prayers of Luke's gospel - the tax-collector's prayer in the parable of Luke 18.13 and the cry of the blind man in Luke 18.35-8.

So here it is, a prayer centred on Jesus. A prayer of penitence and longing which is full of faith and hope.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Pray it repetitively, so that the words shift focus on the elements of praise and penitence and finally, to a quietening prayer of the heart.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

District Church Council Meeting - September 2009

Last week's DCC meeting reflected together on Joshua 1.1-9 and prayed. We reviewed progress on the installation of the new heating system, for which further soundproofing is required. We decided to buy a new digital piano, reviewed the planning for the next Alpha Course, discussed our swine flu precautions and the venue of PCC meetings.

The biggest item we considered was our ministry among families with young children. Oadby has changed significantly in the last two decades and the numbers of children in its churches has fallen. We wanted to respond to these issues in a way that saw the whole picture and what opportunities God may have for us. The briefing paper on these issues, titled Where are the children? is available for download.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Church Fete 2009

Under a blazing sun and a perfect blue sky, hundreds of neighbours gathered on Hamble Green next to the church for a fabulous fete.

It was really encouraging that the event drew people from all backgrounds and brought our community together. Sue and Wendy organised the whole affair, with generous support and hard work from a wide range of volunteers and friends. Thanks to all of them for one of the highlights of our year so far.

More pictures on our Facebook Group.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Confirmation 2009

We packed into St Peter's Church, Oadby for our service of baptism and confirmation this week. Twenty four people were confirmed by The Rt Revd Christopher Boyle, including from St Paul's: Linda, Howard, Ben, Pat, Katy, Mike and Paige (who was baptised and confirmed).

With worship led by the band from St Luke's Thurnby, and St Peter's Choir, the service helped us worship God in a blend of styles and traditions.

Baptism and confirmation are signs of growing faith and a growing Church. If you'd like to know more about us, what we believe and how you can join in, get in touch soon.

Harvest Fete - 12 September 2009

There's bunting outside the church. Stalls and games are ready. The grass on Hamble Green has been trimmed by the Council and the weather forecasters promise us a lovely day!

The fete opens at 12 noon and runs all afternoon, so if you're in the area, come down to Hamble Road and enjoy the fun.

A new piano

This week's DCC meeting decided to buy a new digital piano to enhance our worship and to replace the piano that was loaned to us.

There has been a lot of careful research to make sure it meets our needs and a generous donation means that most of the cost is paid for.

A new instrument will give us even more versatility and a wonderful sound.

Update 25 September 2009. The piano arrived this afternoon and sounds amazing.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Alpha males

To counter the misconception that church is just a bit 'girly', Bear Grylls features on a new Alpha video.

We're putting on an Alpha Supper on 1 December, 2009 and will be running a new Alpha Course in January 2010. Get in touch if you're interested.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Principal Services September and October 2009

The overwhelming emphasis in our regular preaching at St Paul's is on the goodness of God, the saving work of Christ and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. For a needy world, unable to help itself in a tangle of confusion and sin, this is great news.

To change the perspective a little this autumn, we're going to take a closer look at a number of "deadly sins" in a frank, honest and sometimes humorous way. The idea of sin may be unfashionable but the Bible is very clear that its natural consequences are deadly and disastrous, both for individuals and for society as a whole.

Preaching about sin always runs the risk of self-righteousness, or giving the impression that some of us are pure and others are wicked. The truth is, we all have a problem with sin, it spoils the relationships and communities in which we live, as well as our personal relationships with God.

So get ready for a series of challenging services which will explore the Bible's teaching about our vulnerability to a range of issues and the possibilities of dealing with them.

We've chosen the most common list of 'seven deadly sins' that people are aware of. There are others but perhaps seven is enough for one series!

If you find yourself personally affected by these issues and would like to talk with someone in complete confidence, do make contact with a member of the ministry team.

6 September
10.00am Holy Communion
All one in Christ
James 2.1-17 and Mark 7.24-37

13 September
10.00am Harvest Parade
The problem we all have with greed
Luke 12:16-21

20 September
10.00am Holy Communion
The problem we all have with pride
Proverbs 16.18-19 and Luke 18:9-14

27 September
10.00am The Word Service for Back to Church Sunday
The problem we all have with anger
Genesis 4.1-11 and Matthew 5:21-26

4 October
10.00am Holy Communion and baptism
The problem we all have with envy
Exodus 20:17 and Matthew 20.1-16

11 October
10.00am All Together Church with Student Welcome Sunday
The problem we all have with gluttony
Proverbs 23.19-21

18 October
10.00am Holy Communion
The problem we all have with lust
2 Samuel 11.1-5, 27b and Matthew 5:27-30

25 October
10.00am The Word Service for Bible Sunday
The problem we all have with sloth

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Bread alone?

The restrictions introduced as a result of the outbreak of swine flu have affected the way that churches distribute the bread and wine at holy communion. For Christians, sharing in the Lord's Supper is a vital and special aspect of our worship together, so a change in the way we do things is bound to stimulate interest and comment.

We're working under guidelines that have been agreed nationally, introduced in Leicestershire under the direction of our Diocesan Bishop. These are aimed at reducing the risk of passing on the flu virus and they allow us two options:
  • to distribute bread alone, reserving the wine for the minister who presides at the service,
  • or, to 'intinct' each morsel of bread by dipping it into the wine, so that everyone continues to 'receive in both kinds'.
The Diocese of Leicester's website now includes a paper by The Revd Alison Booker, which sets out some of the thinking behind the option to distribute bread alone. You can download it here.

It's a helpful document that covers a lot of issues and answers a lot of questions. But it appears to advocate distribution of bread alone as the preferred way of sharing communion. So I want to set out reasons why I believe that it's important that we continue to allow people to receive both bread and wine, through the permitted method of intinction.

First, scripture tells us that Christ commanded us to "do this in remembrance of me". That makes our interpretation and application of Christ's this extremely important. The work of the Reformers in making explicit its radical implications is no historical footnote. The whole community sharing bread and wine in remembrance of Christ's work of atonement means that the Lord's Supper is a constituting ordinance. It sits among a number of other things that we do in obedience to the Lord. For as much as we "do this in remembrance", preach the gospel, baptise disciples, love our neighbours, seek the Kingdom... we are Christ's church.

Second, these are practical things, which actively involve the whole Christian community. They can be seen, felt, touched, heard by everyone so that even those who cannot grasp theological formulations can 'get it'. In instituting this sacrament, our Lord did not explain at length. He took, gave thanks, broke, shared - and commanded us to the same. It's a scandalously gracious, recklessly unexplained giving! What 'we do' in remembrance remains, even for the most theologically informed, a matter of some mystery and inexplicability.

The third point flows from the first two, and is an observable fact: Reception of communion in two kinds simply matters to people, at a depth of meaning and significance which is hard to articulate. Members of our church tell me that it matters for them to receive the wine and I believe them. I do not wish to remove this from them, even if I could formulate a convincing teaching that circumvented it. Otherwise we run the risk of appearing to fob people off.

Fourth, the withdrawal of the cup from the people and its reservation to the president alone is inescapably one issue, not two. It is practically impossible to separate them. My understanding of my role as president at Holy Communion is essentially a functional one. I have the privilege and responsibility of presiding at the Church's celebration. As a presbyter at the Lord's table, I mediate nothing and make no representation of Christ to his people. It is his meal and our celebration.

It is so easy to create mistaken impressions of hierarchy and precedence that I find it necessary to consciously subvert them. It's my normal practice to be the very last person to receive communion, and to do so by kneeling at the communion rail at the end of the last line of communicants. I couldn't contemplate being the only one to share fully in the bread and wine. If bread alone were to be distributed to God's people and thought sufficient, then why does wine needs to be publically consumed by the priest? How do we avoid the impression that there is something essential to the ministerial priesthood that merits the wine?

An exclusively clerical consumption of the wine 'on behalf of the church' makes it harder to defeat clericalism in its other manifestations.

Fifth, the language of feasting and celebration belong to the eucharist. The liturgy of Common Worship colourfully and vividly expounds the rite as a joyful and glad thanksgiving - a foretaste of the heavenly banquet as well as the proclamation of Christ's death until he comes. Wine (alcoholic, of course) is a party drink. Sharing it as we do normally risks offending the sensibilities of some through its associations with inebriation and excess (something that puzzles friends in denominations and religions where alcohol is forbidden). We remember Jesus' willingness to feast at the same time. Sharing in wine puts us in Cana as well as at the Passover liberation party. Bread alone, however symbolic of daily nourishment, is not the same.

So these are my reasons for preferring intinction. It allows us as fully as possible, as equally as possible, to do what Jesus asks us to do. I look forward to the day soon when we can revert to sharing the chalice 'properly'. It's what the Church has done for centuries, including during periods of pandemic.

I'd be interested to know what others think. Do use the comment feature to share your thoughts.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Baptism of Children at St Paul's (sometimes called "Christening")

Are you interested in having your child baptised or perhaps having a special service of thanksgiving for her or his life?

We’re delighted that you are considering a baptism or thanksgiving service for your child. At such an important time in life, these services are a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and pray with family, friends and the wider church community for God’s blessing, support and protection.

Baptism is a sign of the beginning of a journey with God which continues for the rest of our lives. For all involved, particularly the candidates, parents and godparents, it is a joyful moment when we rejoice in what God has done in Christ, and respond in repentance and faith.

You can expect a warm welcome when you enquire about baptism for your child. To find out more, please contact Simon on 0116 271 0519 or at

It's not just babies who are baptised. Call us for details on baptism of adults and older children.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Swine flu

Latest information: 10 October 2009. We received updated advice from our diocese which requests the reintroduction of the common cup. More details here.

Thankfully, for most people infected with swine flu, the symptoms are mild. But as infection rates increase, it's sensible for us to plan how we sustain our ministry to the people of our parish.

We have been asked by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to make changes in the way we administer Communion. This is because of the swine flu outbreak. The Archbishops are acting on advice from the Department of Health, who wish the Churches to take precautions to limit the spread of disease by not sharing common vessels for food and drink.

The change that is being recommended by the Archbishops is that, for the time being, we discontinue using the shared cup at Communion.

At St Paul's, rather than withdraw communion in both kinds, we have decided to adopt the practice of intinction: that is, the president will personally dip each piece of bread in the wine, before placing it in the hands of each communicant. This is one of the options available to us in the advice we have received.

The Archbishops have also recommended the use of alcohol-based hand gel before the Eucharistic Prayer by those administering Communion, and we will be adopting this practice.

We have also been advised to request that hands are not shaken at the sharing of The Peace.

We realise that these temporary changes are slightly uncomfortable for all of us. Please be assured that the Church of England has always believed that, in case of necessity, Communion may be administered in one kind only. The validity of the Sacrament is in no way affected by this temporary change.

For up to date information about the flu pandemic, how to protect yourself and others and what to do if you feel ill, please visit the National Pandemic Flu service website at For treatment advice call their helpline on 0800 15 13 100.

Now would be a good time to think about neighbours who are vulnerable or who live alone:
  • Check that they know what to do if they feel ill.
  • Consider exchanging phone numbers and contact details for family who might live farther away.
  • Consider offering to be a "flu friend", who could collect medicines if they are needed.
We're praying for all involved in the situation, including those health workers who are particularly busy at this time. We also pray that the Church's message of hope will reach those who are anxious or afraid.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Oadby Oxymorons 100km triumph

Our congratulations to Neil, Russell, Jerry and Dave on their amazing walk. Dave suffered an injury and had to pull out after 60km (40 miles) but the others made it all the way to Brighton. Well done to all four of them and their fabulous support crew of Helen, John, Sue and Carey.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Cheering for the Trailwalkers

We're cheering for Russ, David, Neil and Jerry as they prepare for the amazing Oxfam Trailwalker 2009 event, which begins tomorrow, 18 July.

While most of us will be still in bed, the Oadby team will make their way to the start line and head off across the South Downs at 7am. Their route will take them over the 100km (62 mile) South Downs Way. We hope to be able to speak with them by phone on Sunday morning, during our ten o'clock service.

Please pray for them in this amazing adventure, and for their support crew. If you haven't yet done so, sign up and sponsor them at

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Bishop Christopher Boyle appointed as Assistant Bishop

On 6 September, Bishop Christopher will be welcomed into a new ministry as full time Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Leicester. He has for the last eight years been Bishop of Northern Malawi and brings significant experience.

This is an important development and we hope that Bishop Christopher's appointment will add significantly to the investment in mission of the church in Leicestershire.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Certificate in Christian Discipleship 2009

We've just received the publicity for the Certificate in Christian Discipleship (CCD) course beginning in the autumn of this year. A number of members of St Paul's have enjoyed the course in recent years. Why not think about enrolling this year?

The publicity material includes these details:

The Certificate in Christian Discipleship is an ecumenical course that helps us to explore our own life and faith. Running in small groups throughout the county, people from a variety of backgrounds and contexts discover what it is to be a Christian Disciple and have opportunity to study some key elements of the Christian Faith.

This course is for anyone wishing to deepen their faith, ask questions and link that faith to daily life. Explore with others in an informal and relaxed atmosphere.

The course can be taken for personal development, or for preparation for further training and no formal qualifications are required to join. CCD is the foundation requirement for authorised Anglican Ministries in the Diocese of Leicester.

If you would like to, there is opportunity to submit assessments to gain credit towards a University Level Certificate, validated by the University of Wales, Lampeter. However, this is not compulsory and you don't need to have an academic background to enjoy CCD to the full.

Year 1 course venues

City Centre, Adult Education Centre, Wellington Street, Leicester
Monday Evenings, 7.30pm – 9.30pm

City Centre, Leicester Cathedral Centre
Wednesday Evenings, 7.30pm – 9.30pm

Ashby-de-la-Zouch (venue to be confirmed)
Thursday Evenings, 7.30pm – 9.30pm

Loughborough Area (venue to be confirmed)
Evening to be confirmed.

Year 2 course venues

City Centre, Adult Education Centre, Wellington Street, Leicester
Tuesday Evenings, 7.30pm – 9.30pm

Wymeswold, St Mary’s Church
Tuesday Evenings, 7.30pm – 9.30pm

Kibworth, St Wilfred’s Church Hall
Wednesday Evenings, 7.30pm – 9.30pm

Stanton-under-Bardon, St Mary & All Saints
Thursday Evenings, 7.30pm – 9.30pm

For further details and to book your place contact the School for Ministry Office : 0116 248 7417.

The induction and pre-course study skills day is on Saturday 12 September 2009.

Modules include:

Year 1
Christian Discipleship
Opening up the Old Testament
Opening up the New Testament
Introduction to the Creeds
Mission Ministry and Vocation
Theological Reflection

Year 2
Christian Spirituality
Entering into the Old Testament
Entering into the New Testament
Sources of Theology
History of English Christianity
Christian Leadership

Each module is studied over 5 x two hour sessions


For further information about the CCD course, call the School for Ministry on 0116 248 7417 or email Claire Stapleton.

Principal services - July to September 2009

During summer, we enter what is often a quieter time in our church's calendar. Many are away on holiday or visiting friends. Rest and refreshment is important -- even Jesus sometimes led his disciples away from the crowds into the hills.

But equally, we should not forget the importance in our spiritual life, of taking time to be in God's presence - just as when Jesus went into the hills it was often the opportunity he took to pray.
During the summer season we will take the opportunity to continue to learn lessons from the apostles.

If you are going away on holiday, may you come back refreshed in body, mind and spirit.

Sunday 19 July 2009
10.0am Holy Communion
A place for the outsider – Matthew
Matthew 9:9-13, 1 Corinthians 1:25-2:5

Sunday 26 July 2009
10.0am Service of the Word
Handling doubt – Thomas
John 11:8-18, John 20:19-29

Sunday 2 August 2009
10.0am Holy Communion
Paying the price – James
Mark 1:14-20, Acts 12:1-4

Sunday 9 August 2009
10.0am All together Church
Bread of Life
John 6.35,41-51

Sunday 16 August 2009
10.0am Holy Communion
Love is the basis – John
1 John 4:7-5:2, John 19:25b-30

Sunday 23 August 2009
10.0am Service of the Word
Keeping the faith
Ephesians 6.10-20 John 6.56-69

Sunday 30 August 2009
10.0am Joint Service with St Peter’s at St Paul’s
What matters?
James 1.17-27, Mark 7.1-8,14,15,21-23

Sunday 6 September
10.0am Holy Communion
All One in Christ
James 2.1-17, Mark 7.24-37

Sunday 13 September
All Together Church
Harvest Thanksgiving

Monday, 6 July 2009

Chloe Thomas ordained as deacon

On Sunday, our own Chloe Thomas was ordained at Leicester Cathedral. Bishop Tim ordained ten other new deacons, who will all begin their new ministries in the Diocese of Leicester.

Chloe, Gwion, Angharad, Huw and Sian, were all members of St Paul's until she followed God's call to ordination and was selected for training at Cuddesdon Theological College in Oxford.

This is a moment for celebration, for Chloe and her family, the parish she will serve, but also for us at St Paul's. It's thrilling to let them go with our blessing, even as we are sorry that they are no longer with us. We wish them all well and pray for them as they settle into their new home, and for Chloe especially as she begins a three-year curacy at St Mary's Church, Knighton.

Ordinations are a sign that God continues to call men and women to service in his Church. But it's not only deacons and priests who offer themselves in ministry. The vocations page of the diocese's website has more details.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

A very fit looking Simon met a group of church members at St Peter's Church and walked the last mile of his epic journey. Boots which were hardly broken in at the beginning, after 500 odd miles looked worn to say the least. 51 days of bed and breakfast interspersed with an average 10 miles per day walk have given Simon plenty of opportunity to reflect and consider how he plans to take our church forward. It has been a quiet time for the administration really, the team which was set up to keep an eye on the place met regularly and were blessed with lots of good things to discuss and pray about: only a few difficulties to break up the calm which has prevailed.
When the little group arrived at St Paul's there were over 50 people waiting, waving flags and cheering a hungry, but less than weary vicar. We hastily provided a repast and all joined in celebrating the return. Simon will not be back as vicar until 12th of July so please address and questions to either me or Anita

Monday, 4 May 2009

Our Heroes

Four young? Men from St Paul’s are planning to raise money for Oxfam and the Gurkhas by going for a walk, you know the sort of thing, you do it everyday to collect the newspaper or catch the bus. They however have upped the ante somewhat by going for 60miles... yes miles... over the South Downs and all in 30 hours.
When you get your breath back think about 2½ marathons non-stop. They deserve a medal if they succeed.
The Trailwalker 2009 Challenge takes place overnight on the 18th-19th July They need sponsors and if you feel that you can help them talk to them, me or go onto

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Save Launde Abbey by helping raise £1,000,000

No noise. No stress. No more

unless we all help
As you wind your way through drifting English countryside, down peaceful lanes, you find your soul begin to awaken. Your mobile signal disappears almost like a sign that tranquility lies beyond. Ancient, majestic trees guide you off the lanes to a field track leading to the Abbey.
A spiritual silence surrounds Launde Abbey, a twelfth century retreat where modern life flows away leaving you wide open to experience pure, inspiring enlightenment, and a silence that seems to lift your entire being from the moment you arrive.
Without your help, Launde Abbey will no longer be able to provide this kind of retreat for people that desperately need our support.

If you can give something use the flyer which is available in church to find out how to give

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Mexico! it already seems a long ago experience, but some of the things which have imbedded themselves in my mind are very much to do with the Easter experience. Images of crowds of happy people come flooding back. Our itinerary over the festival period was very hectic and we were unable to take part in a service while we were away. In fact it was unlikely that we would have gotten into one because there were queues at almost every church. Villages and big towns were crowded with worshippers and the whole population it seemed was busy celebrating the resurrection.
When we finally managed to get into a church at a town called Coba the calm and the cool had returned and we were able to spend time with the Lord. The monk we met there was full of enthusiasm and busy organising the next service but he was very keen to smile and say Ola! All through our journeying in the Yucatan peninsula we were aware of how relaxed and happy people were. I would hesitate to say that this was a universal rule, but people seemed to have time to spend with their loved ones and enjoy each other’s company. They were aware of our shortcomings as visitors to their land but they tolerated us in a friendly and helpful way.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Christ in the Centre 2009

Few people who have experienced the wonderful passion play Christ in the Centre, wouldn't have been moved.

It begins on Good Friday at 10.30am and our united service
at Oadby Baptist Church has been timed for 9.30am, so we can get to the town centre in time afterwards.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Arrangements while Simon is on renewal leave

In less than a week from the time I write this I shall begin a three-month sabbatical from ministry. It starts on 13 April and ends on 11 July 2009. I wrote about the planning for this renewal leave last year and it's now almost upon me.

St Paul's is in an exciting place and with many talented, wise, prayerful and gifted members. So it should be no surprise that I'm hoping that my absence will be a time of blessing for the church. I shall leave a few gaps but that's no bad thing. And each brings new opportunities.

While I'm away, routine enquiries will be handled by a range of people:

Michael Rusk is Team Rector and retains overall leadership of the parish in its mission and oversight of pastoral care. He can be contacted through the Parish Office on 0116 272 0080 or, for urgent issues, at home on 0116 271 2135.

The Parish Office is staffed by Penny Russell and a team of volunteers and should be contacted for wedding and funeral enquiries. 0116 272 0080

Hugh James, our Reader, is the point of contact for issues relating to worship and church services.

Paul Webster, our churchwarden, is the contact for general issues at St Paul's. Paul joins Anita Chettle (deputy churchwarden), Hugh James (Reader) and Aileen Tincello (Chair of DCC) in a small sabbatical group, which will meet to pray and determine where issues need to be taken for decision during Simon's absence.

I have a real sense of peace about being away and am entirely confident in those who take on these additional responsibilities. I am also very grateful for the extra work that they will put in.

Enquiries related to Reader Ministry in the Diocese of Leicester are being handled by The Revd Richard Curtis and Mrs Margaret Gillespie, Assistant Wardens of Readers.

Forming a sabbatical group

This paper was discussed at the District Church Council meeting in March 2009

I'm on renewal leave from Monday 13 April (the day after Easter) until Saturday 11 July (the day before the joint parish service at St Peter's at the beginning of the school summer holidays). In my planning for this period, I've tried to learn from those who've taken a similar break from parish ministry. Clergy Renewal - The Alban Guide to Sabbatical Planning was very helpful. It confirmed what I'm hoping for, that this can be an important time of growth for the church, not just for its minister.

There are opportunities to maximise and dangers to avoid. First, the opportunities:

  • an opportunity for others to share in leadership in deeper ways.
  • an opportunity for St Paul's to recognise the lay leaders and their specific role in the church community.
  • a new perspective to leadership, fresh thinking and insight.
  • an opportunity to follow God's leading in a different kind of time, with the expectation that he has directions in which to take us during the spring and beyond.
  • preparation for the inevitable (but not imminent) time when there will be a clergy vacancy at St Paul's.

These are the dangers that it would be wise to avoid:

  • a stagnation in our growth or missed opportunities due to ideas being put on hold until I return.
  • confusion about who is responsible for decisions.

This paper sets out my thinking, following conversations with others, about the way we might best go forward.

The place of a Sabbatical Group within existing shared leadership
St Paul's already has an extensive pattern of shared leadership. We are part of a team ministry, in which the Team Rector exercises leadership and oversight. The PCC and DCC are responsible for policy decisions and the spending of money. The chair, secretary and treasurer of the PCC and DCC have leading roles. The parish churchwardens and their assistants are called to be 'foremost among the laity', they have legal responsibilities and have a key role in stewardship of buildings. Our Reader is entrusted not only to preach and lead worship but to share in the leadership of the worshipping community. In addition to these nationally-recognised roles, we have a Home Groups Co-ordinator, CTO Representatives, Music Worship Leaders, Co-ordinator of Children's and Youth Work, Lettings Secretary and Administrator. And, of course, there are many who lead groups for adults and children and offer ministry in other ways. This is a very well developed and strong pattern, which contributes enormously to the life of St Paul's.

Nevertheless, the vicar of St Paul's, perhaps in part due to the fact of living 'on-site', tends to be the first point of reference for people who wish to raise an issue. I find that very often, I can respond by giving information, a quick decision, or advice about where an issue needs to be discussed. Some things are straightforward and can be responded to without reference to others. But I take many issues to my regular meetings with churchwardens, the clergy team, the PCC standing committee, to the DCC and to specific leaders.
I'm sure that in my absence, things will work more smoothly if there is a new, temporary group, which I've called a 'sabbatical group'. I have asked the churchwarden and assistant warden, the DCC chair and the Reader to form this group.

It's important to stress from the outset that this group does not displace any other leadership body, or take away any role from anyone, except me while I'm away.

The Team Rector continues to have oversight and ultimate responsibility, shared with the PCC and bishop, for the mission of the churches in the parish. But we must ensure that he is not bogged down with a lot of detailed questions about local, St Paul's issues.

The PCC and DCC continue to lead on the policy and the spending of money, but we must ensure that they are not burdened with too many issues about the application of policy, or the spending of reasonable, small amounts (under £100) in the course of church life.

The churchwarden and assistant warden shouldn't be overwhelmed with every question and issue for resolution. They will need a small group of people with whom to check and consult.

Membership of the Sabbatical Group
It's never easy to know where to limit membership of a group. There are many people who could contribute in a valuable way. But a small group has many benefits. In the Reader, churchwarden, assistant warden and DCC chair, we have a very capable group, who may decide that they should invite one or two others to join.

Meetings of the Sabbatical Group
I convened the first meeting of the group. But the group has now made its own decisions about how often and where it meets. I hope that the group will make a priority of prayer, so that the ongoing life of the church is held before God and so that his guidance will be sought.

What if the Sabbatical Group feels that a decision is needed on an important topic?
A key role of the Group is to spot when and where decisions need to be taken, and to involve the right people in the decision. For example, a question about music might be directed to the Music Leaders. Or a problem with the building might be referred to the churchwardens. An issue might be taken to the DCC or PCC. Or a pastoral concern might be referred to the Team Rector or to the Home Group Co-ordinator. In serving the church effectively, the Sabbatical Group will be watchful, prayerful, wise and empowering of others.

Contact point for the congregation and parish
Anyone wishing to raise an issue with the sabbatical group should direct it to the Churchwarden, Paul Webster.

Annual Parochial Church Meeting
The APCM is on 23 April, just two weeks into my renewal leave. It's possible that this will have an impact on the membership of the Sabbatical Group as everyone, apart from the Reader, is subject to re-election.
Role of the Sabbatical Group after the renewal leave ends

I think it's important to signal that the Group is temporary and that its remit ends in the summer. But it would be surprising if the experience didn't lead to clues as to the next steps in the development of shared lay leadership. A key task for the group when I return will be to help me understand 'where St Paul's has got to' and I would be thrilled to listen and learn from the experience.

Simon Harvey
25 March 2009

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Repairing the walls

Thanks John and Paul for keeping the place in good trim.

St Paul's Church report for 2008/9

The reports for the forthcoming Annual Parochial Church Meeting on 23 April are now available in Church. Here's the text of the report for St Paul's.

St Paul's Church Report

APCM 2009

Simon Harvey

It's been a joy once again to see our church grow and to welcome Sue J, Mike, Howard, Sue B, Roger, Pat, Oli, Heidi-May, Sarah, Victoria, Raed, Phyllis and Maureen, who have joined us. So this report begins with thanksgiving to God for all that he does around, in and through us.

As the church grows, it's vital that we don't neglect our service in the wider world and the pastoral care of those in particular need. Growing bigger must not mean growing more impersonal.

In the autumn of 2008, we set out on an ambitious review of our church life. We called this time of reflection Grace, Gratitude and Growth.

The process was based on Philippians 4.8, Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

So rather than create a list of problems requiring our attention, we set out to understand more clearly the way in which God is working through St Paul's Church today and in our past.

Over seventy members of the church came to a series of meetings in the afternoons and evenings and then to a whole Saturday together. Together we shared stories of particular moments in the life of our church fellowship as it has served the wider community. We treated these memories as precious insights, which disclose the activity of God rather than our own best moments. As we attended to these stories, we made the following assumptions:

1. In every church, some things work well. There are some great things happening at St Paul's. God is already working here among us and beyond us. He's not sitting waiting to be asked to join us.

2. What we focus on becomes our reality. Where we give our time, attention, gifts and effort determines what thrives and grows. Very often, great things happen when people join their passion with God's activity. Little acorns will grow to huge oaks when given light, good soil and space.

3. Asking questions leads the church community. Leadership isn't just telling people what to do. It's often about finding the really important questions that unlock new ways of understanding and responding.

4. People have more confidence in the journey to the future when the carry forward the best parts of the past. We need to understand where God has been, and is, active in our church community and to carry that treasure that as we journey on. We remembered God's pilgrim people in the time of the Exodus and the Exile.

5. If we carry parts of the past into our future, they should be what is best about the past. Some things need to be let go. In growing, we should focus on holding on to the good.

6. It is important to value differences. We need each other. We need the differences of personality, character, perspective, gifts and skills.

7. The language we use shapes our reality. The way we express ourselves, the way we talk, laugh, relate and move all form the reality of what St Paul's is. We are more than we are on paper and the life of our community cannot be defined by structure or organisation.

8. Like sunflowers, churches are heliotropic (moving toward the life-giving). Focussing on the positive leads us forward.

9. All significant steps are collaborative. The best process is an act of community.

We re-examined our great stories. In them we found revelations of God's character and clues about the key themes that are characteristic of St Paul's in its mission. These five key themes are:

  • Learning and growing
  • Children
  • Hospitality,
  • Fun and food
  • Prayer

We dared to dream; dreams expressed in the affirmative, as if already happening to us; that point to real desired possibilities; that are faithful to our collective reflections (not our own pet subjects or hobby-horses); that create new relationships, including partnerships across boundaries (young and old, recent member and long-standing member, church and community, etc.); that bridge the best of "what is" and "what might be"; that involve us learning new things; and that challenge assumptions about our routines or our organisation of things.

We continue to see these key themes being worked out in a growing engagement with the world around us:

Open Church

A careful and considered discussion about opening our church building more often took place at the DCC. We decided that a time of focussed praying was needed and in this separate event, there was a remarkable unity in sensing God's encouragement to take a greater risk in this direction.

Engage Courses from Care for the Family

Anita Chettle, Paul Webster and Chris Burberry have led our investigation of the Engage Courses. These short courses will be offered to the local community by trained leaders at St Paul's as part of our hope for transformation in our wider community. This isn't about preaching at people or even about sharing the Christian message in explicit ways but rather by loving service and compassion. The first course, Drugproofing your kids, will be piloted in the coming months and we hope to see courses on parenting and money-management for children rolled out in 2009/2010.

Alpha 2009

Our Alpha Course has been much smaller than in 2008 but we've seen God at work in amazing ways. Paul Webster, Gill Aires, Vivien James, Dave Spence, Stella Kenyon, Colin and Anita Chettle have contributed with devotion, skill and loving service each week for three months. We've made good friends with our guests, who are now all joining us in Sunday worship as they continue to learn more of God's love and purpose for them.

Little Angels

The Little Angels mums and tots group is meeting an important need among local parents and carers for friendship and a place to take pre-school children. As young mums themselves, Keely, Lauren and Tina are doing a great job in leading the project and they gave an excellent presentation to the DCC in January. We've affirmed what Little Angels are doing and set out a proper constitution for the group, as part of St Paul's wider mission.

Alcoholics Anonymous

Our Barnabas Centre is used by a thriving AA group who offer key support on a twelve-step programme for facing up to the realities of alcohol use and a supportive environment for retaining sobriety. We are pleased to partner with AA in this vital work and we applaud the members of the local group for all that they do.

Mental Health Support Project

This new initiative is in partnership with Voluntary Action Blaby District, whose Mental Health Project offers a variety of social support groups, self help courses and a Befriending Scheme that aim to provide the skills people need to enable them to cope with their difficulties, increase their confidence and self esteem and lead an independent life. Their base at St Paul's is a significant five-year project.

Friends of Adullam

We're delighted that the generous donation of hundreds of toys and gifts at Christmas to projects around Leicester that support young parents and vulnerable families has led to a partnership with Adullam Homes. Adullam is a Housing Association, founded by a Christian and based on Christian values, which does amazing work to help people at particular moments of need. We're seeing our partnership grow and praying that God will lead us to develop this work in the coming months.

As the Annual Parochial Church Meeting gathers on 23 April, I shall be setting off on the first day of my 500-mile 'pilgrimage in reverse'. I'm Walking Home from Paris as part of a three-month renewal leave and I'm very grateful to colleagues in the parish, to the Bishop and Diocese of Leicester, to Ecclesiastical Insurance for making this possible. St Paul's Church has been wonderfully encouraging and generous to me.

I'm expecting to be bereaved of a role in the parish and church which I love, as well as to miss my family and friends in Oadby. But this kind of disconnection will also be healthy. I'm confident that St Paul's will flourish in my absence and I look forward to returning in July to find that God has led the church into new places of service and worship.

I am blogging as I go and you can follow my progress at Before I resume ministry I hope to compile the story of my adventures in a book and for the proceeds to support the valuable work of Christian Aid, so look out for details in the coming months.

Planning for being away has heightened my sense of privilege in ministry. More and more I'm away of my own limitation and lack, yet more and more I see God at work among us. Thank you for the partnership we share and thank God, to whom belongs all honour, glory, majesty and might.

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.

(Psalm 37.5).