RECTOR'S December pew LETTER
Advent. The countdown to Christmas has begun – let’s hope it can distract us from Brexit! I preached in Newport Pagnell last Sunday (at Calvary Chinese Church) and all their Christmas street decorations were already up. I mustn’t get grumpy as Christmas is after all one of the few times of year when people who are usually far off from church come closer – like a planet whose orbit draws it close to its sun now and again.
As followers of Jesus we shouldn’t get drawn into Christmas festivities too soon (hard to do with kids around I know) and the reason is this: before the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ we enter a period of reflection (or ‘penitence’) which we call Advent. We should (if we know our bibles) know that Jesus came first to save us and then, when He returns, to judge us.
So, Advent should be a time of self-examination as we ask ourselves “am I ready to meet my Lord and saviour?”. I hope that this kind of introspection will give us cause to make changes in our lives for if we’re really honest with ourselves I doubt any of us will feel comfortable at the prospect of the ‘Lamb’s book of life’ (Rev 21:27) being opened and all we’ve ever done, seen or spoken being laid bare before the Lord God. So please join me over the next few weeks in praying more and reading the bible more as we await the moment when we celebrate Jesus’ birth.
Challenges. There is so much to celebrate and give thanks for. There are also some challenges that lay ahead for which I’d value your prayers.
· Giving. It's now been a few weeks since we ran our sermon series on Giving and I am very pleased to say that our income has gone up £27,000 pa or 10%, which goes some way towards filling the gap that we have in our funding. Harry Morten, our Head of Finance, is shortly going to be sending out a reminder of how to give, as only 16 people have actively increased or started giving since our sermon series (after all that great teaching only 16 responded – can this be right?!). Please remember that there are many ways to give, from Gift Aid envelopes, to our new contactless card reader (and Harry is also investigating 'giving via text message'). But best of all is by regular Standing Order, which helps us to plan and for you to budget. Details at bpchurch.uk/giving.
· New Kids’ Team Leader. We are still looking for someone with spiritual maturity who loves kids, is a faithful bible teacher, full of energy and enthusiasm and has a proven track record leading volunteers and children’s work.
· New Youth Team Leader. With the departure in early February of Tim and Emma King (who have been chosen to be a part of a new team leading a nationally funded church plant in Swindon) we need to find a new youth leader. Emma leaves a thriving youth group and big shoes to fill!
· New Worship Team Leader. We also need to find a new contemporary worship team leader to take over from Tim. Tim has done an incredible job of raising the bar in our ‘Spirit-led’ worship and will be a very hard act to follow.
· Curate. Danny will be moving on next year and we’ll not get another curate until Summer 2020. He’ll leave a massive gap in our ministry team but God is of course sovereign and I know others will step forward. Much prayer needed though!
In all these areas we pray and trust in God to lead the right people to us and for the funds to pay for the posts.
Service Timings. Yet again we’ve found identifying an easy option to the problems of the 9.30 service timing elusive. The next option to examine is swapping the two morning services around and I’ll be consulting both congregations in the New Year with possible options. The idea is that we’d trial a new arrangement in the summer term that will conclude at the start of the summer holidays giving us the holidays to reflect and then agree a plan before implementation in September 2019. One possible option would be to move the 11am to 9am (or perhaps 9.15am if we cap the sermon at 10 minutes) and then moving the 9.30 service to a later start-time of 11am. Whatever we do will involve a sacrifice but we must remember we’re doing this to make church more accessible to those who don’t yet come to church – not just for our ease or comfort.
Serving. Serving (in some capacity) is pretty much a non-negotiable for anyone who is physically/mentally able to and would say they are a disciple of Jesus. Serving is also a great way for newcomers and regulars alike to get to know others. It may be once a term serving tea or it may be week-in week-out helping to clean the church or helping in our busy office. There is a ‘you-shaped’ hole somewhere for almost everyone in one of the many service teams.
CofE Stats. I know many of our congregations are not from a CofE background but whilst there may be a decline in numbers across the CofE (and other denominations) there are many vibrant and growing Anglican churches – including our own! In fact we are in the top 5% of CofE churches in terms of size. I thank God for the way He’s been blessing us and I’m sure it is all down to us being faithful to the unchanging truth of the gospel which we preach.
Confirmations. We are hoping to invite a bishop in to take a confirmation service early next year. If you’re interested in being confirmed let one of the clergy team know.
Focus. Creating community is a vital part of our vision and one of the ways we do this is to take a group to the ‘Focus’ church holiday (25-30th July). Most people camp (those that don’t stay off-site and come in daily) and we have a community pitch where our marquee lives and is where we eat and hang-out. The kids/young people’s activities are awesome. We’d love to keep growing the group so if you’re interested in coming see me or Danny and visit bpchurch.uk/focus. Bursaries are available.
Fabric Issues. We have the following to report:
· The side chapel re-ordering project proceeds slowly. We’ve dropped an aspiration to extend the stage across and agreed to re-instate the stained-glass window (swapping with the lovely windows in the kitchen) by removing the Edwardian canopy, reredos and altar. They’d be replaced with a simple altar with a cross. The area will be de-cluttered and would become much lighter.
· The kitchen project has been a huge success so far with users loving the new serving facilities outside the kitchen door. In early January a new dishwasher (easier and safer and with a far faster cycle) will be installed. I hope we can revert to using china mugs at the 11am and 6pm services which is more ‘green’.
· The PCC has agreed to part-fund the purchase of 300 new chairs. I do hope you’ve had a chance to try out the 3 versions on offer. Please do so and let the office know what you think. Upholstered chairs are not an option as the DAC no longer approves of them (unsuitable when serving food and they don’t last). More on this separately.
· A new external noticeboard will be installed in the next few weeks.
· The nave altar table (hidden under the beautiful frontals) is being swapped for a table with a difference. The new one will conceal a baptistry. You’ll not see any difference when its covered but we’ll have our own baptism pool that will be so much easier to use than previous arrangements. It is on wheels so can be moved around. Delivery is scheduled later this month and huge thanks to the anonymous donor who has made this possible.
Connect Groups. We have some 18 connect groups and I’d really encourage you to join one (or form one) as they really are such a crucial part of our discipleship and pastoral care. Revd Michael Greig is the person to speak to.
New to SSPP? If you are new and haven’t yet completed a ‘Welcome’ card then please pick one up from the back of church, complete it and post it into the red letterbox. If you don’t, we’ll be unable to keep you updated on forthcoming events and you’ll miss out on dinner at The Rectory. If you’d like more information on us just visit www.bpchurch.uk or ask to meet one of the team after a service.
Alpha. Our next Alpha course commences on 23rd January. If you have never attended an Alpha course before please sign up now – it is the best investment of time possible. Please also invite or encourage someone to come. www.bpchurch.uk/Alpha
Christmas Services. We are fast approaching the second most important time in the Church calendar and the most important time as far as guest services are concerned. Over the next few weeks we can expect around 2000 people to visit the Parish Church and we must do our utmost to make their experience so good that they want to return!
As ever we’ll be pouring ourselves out to make our major services really good so I hope and pray you’ll be inviting friends and neighbours along. Details are on our website but this is the programme:
· 9th December at 3pm - Christmas Messy Church – fun for young families.
· 16th December 9.30am - Crib Service – children come dressed as angels, shepherds, cattle and wise men. Perfect to ask neighbours/friends with young families along to.
· 16th December 6pm - Carols by Candlelight with Buckingham Choral Society. Perfect to invite friends to (adults).
· 23rd December:
o 11am HC service
o Combined ‘contemporary’ service at 5pm.
· Christmas Eve
o Christingle Services at 3pm and 5pm on Christmas Eve (free tickets at www.bpchurch.uk/Christmas)
o 11pm Midnight Communion
· Christmas Day
o 8am BCP Communion
o 10am Family Christmas service with communion
· Sunday 30th December. There is no 9.30am but an 11am traditional Communion service, and an evening service at 6pm
Help Needed. We need lots of helpers at the Carols by Candlelight, Christingles and Midnight Communion services. If you can help, please sign-up on the clipboards at the back of church. This is VITAL so that we can welcome and look after people really well.
Christingle Drama. If you’d like to take part please email Danny as soon as possible – we are still recruiting the cast.
Christmas Day Lunch. There is a Churches Together Christmas Day lunch in the Salvation Army Hall. If you know of anyone who will be struggling over Christmas do tell them about it and contact the Office for details.
Date for your Diary: Tim & Emma’s farewell party will be at BPC on Friday 1st February – details to follow.
Huge Encouragement. I received this message via FaceBook Messenger. What an incredible testimony to all the amazing care that goes on in our community. It has been an early Christmas present to me.
Pray forgive the intrusion, but I wanted to say I visited, on invitation, the church lunch today, and I was very impressed indeed....a lady called Jo rang me and arranged to pick me up (I’m very arthritic!) and sat me down with three other ladies, and we talked, and then lunch was served, quite delicious, three courses! I usually only have one at home! Then tea to round off, everyone very welcoming and kind...I travelled home with Valerie and Paul, who I live near to, after making a donation of course....you have a fine band of volunteers there, I would join them, but age......I did give them some new tea towels a while back....I had no idea it existed, I felt very grateful that I live in such a caring community....thank you sir, and of course, thank you God.
It is far too early to wish you all a happy Christmas but I do hope and pray that the reality of God’s gift to us in the Christ-child of Bethlehem will challenge, excite and sustain you. Thank you for reading this.
With all good wishes for Advent and Christmas,
And for the 24th …
May the joy of the angels,
the eagerness of the shepherds,
the perseverance of the wise men,
the obedience of Joseph and Mary,
and the peace of the Christ child
be yours this Christmas