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).

Friday, 3 April 2009

Use your cross on 4 June

I was staggered to read that the British National Party is planning a billboard campaign for the forthcoming European elections on 4 June which quotes scripture.

The quote from John 15:20 is "If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you" and is followed by "What would Jesus do? Vote BNP."

This scandalous distortion of the gospel pretends that the BNP's vile policies of hatred are in some way justified by the Christian faith. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

The Christian faith is clear that race is no grounds for discrimination of any kind, that all people are equal before God and that true justice requires total opposition to bigotry and prejudice.

I hope that Christians will be especially motivated to vote on 4 June, for any party except the racist BNP.

More details at The Church Times, Telegraph and Mirror.