A Note from Reverend Peter

We have started 2018 with a word each month, beginning to look afresh at our communication with God. We call that communication ‘prayer’ and I am personally challenged to make prayer a more significant part of my life – and convinced that we must do that as a church. Last year I wrote quite a bit about growth in my report; this year, I am grateful to Cliff for his electoral roll report, which is the first report in this pack, but sad to see that our electoral roll numbers are falling. Unfortunately, we have little control over deaths and removals – these will impact us. We welcome our two new members, but we must pray for more. We want to strengthen the Christian witness in this community.
Our witness and our welcome must be grounded in prayer. So, we are reminding ourselves this year that God is here, along with us. As the churchwardens note in their report, this is our 150th anniversary year. We are part of a much bigger picture, a much longer story. So, using our second prayer word, let us give thanks, appreciating what God has done for us and what we have done for one another in this last year. I want to underline all the gratitude that is expressed in this report. Just reflect on what we have read here; just think how many people help to sustain our life as a church. Thank God, and thank one another!
Prayer underlies what we do, so thank you for your prayers. I don’t forget that Jesus said, “...when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6.6) Prayer is about that quiet ongoing relationship with God, which sustains us individually and sustains the church. In the same chapter of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says, “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (6.33). That should be the theme of our prayers. So, whether you come to worship on a Sunday, the prayer breakfast or the new prayer workshops, mid-week prayers in church or at the Vicarage, or pray quietly in your room or whilst walking your dog – wherever and whenever you pray, seek God and his kingdom. We trust that our prayers will be heard.
Thank you to those who prepare the church for worship; cleaning, washing linen, arranging flowers, and doing minor repairs. I hope you each take the opportunity to be quiet in church when doing these things, offering them to God as part of your worship. Thank you, too, to those on the rota for opening church in the week, so that others can enjoy this sacred space. Thank you to Lyn and Heather for arranging the prayer and Bible reading rotas – and to every one of you who is on them. I know that a lot of prayerful preparation goes on behind the scenes. This is true, too, for our Readers and musicians. I do want to add my thanks to Lis and John for their continued ministries amongst us; not all churches have Readers, and you are so fortunate not to just have me to listen to! Both of them are active in so many ways and it’s been good to be supported by them again this year, even when they are both called to go and assist at other churches and have also both faced the many challenges of selling their homes. We pray for you both, and for Richard and Mary, who support you; and we pray for God’s blessings in your new homes.
It’s been good to have Trevor and Diane Park with us this year, on an extended placement for Trevor whilst he completes his training as a Reader and his own parish is in vacancy. We have enjoyed having you both with us and wish you well as you prepare for ministry in Plas Newton. Pray for us, as we will pray for you. We also continue to pray for Andrew Macaulay, who has moved on during this last year and is seeking a new church where he can exercise his ministry. This year we have welcomed Jo as both Leader of Music and as a Reader, and we ask your prayers for her as she settles into these complementary roles. The team who lead worship here at St Philip’s all help us to come into God’s presence with that sense of awe and wonder summed up by McLaren (in Naked Spirituality) in the simple word O! “O come, let us worship and bow down...” (Psalm 95.6)
Jacquie and team continue to lead our work with primary school children, and we thank them for another great holiday club as they seek to communicate a sense of O and even ‘wow!’ as the children learn about Jesus. It’s really good to see the Whatever group getting off the
ground again, adding a new dimension to our work alongside KMC, with whom we are also still engaged in the Hope Journey workshops. Thanks to all who are making this work happen, along with all the work with children and young people outlined in the report. Our Diocesan Youth, Children and Families' Missioner, Jonathan Masters, visited us recently and was very impressed by the range of work we do in what is, after all, still only a village community. Margaret Durbin is co-ordinating further discussions about development of this work and we are also in conversation with members of the community committed to improve youth provision in the area. One of the questions we must consider as we take forward our church modernisation project is, how can this building best serve our community and its young people?
Brian Rischmiller and team, along with the PCC, have progressed the plans for the re- ordering of the church building, and we have just heard that we have been granted planning permission for the proposed extension to the porch to incorporate an accessible toilet. I thank God for this indication that we are moving in the right direction, but there is still much work to be done, not least in the area of fundraising. I am very grateful to Brian for all his work on the project so far – and to John and others who have established a project fundraising team. As will be very clear, this project is not something that can be sustained by one or two committed people, but demands commitment from us all. Our vision is for a flexible, accessible building at the heart of this community, one which speaks of Jesus because it is open to all, a community space where worship of God is still central. The uneven floor, the fixed pews and the lack of modern facilities severely restrict the ways in which this building can serve the community to which it was given, with a vision, 150 years ago. As its custodians in this generation, are we willing to release the church building for wider community use?
Even as our plans develop, I continue to be grateful for the level of giving by the church family; we have linked our annual meeting with Promise Sunday this year, and I hope that you are able to renew your pledge to give. We simply cannot continue without your financial support. I am particularly grateful to our finance team, Anne, Norma and Brian, for their ongoing work, one of those quiet ministries in the background that we are so dependent on. Thank you all. In a different area of church life, but also in the background, Kath Roberts carries most of the responsibility for the Parish News, Heather Leather still supports me with some administration, Chris Spray produces the weekly notice sheet, Andrea Edwards is our PCC secretary and was responsible for drawing these reports together, and Andrea Gray is, as her report shows, a careful and caring safeguarding officer. They are amongst the unsung heroes of the church. Thank you all.
My final thanks go to our churchwardens – Margaret, completing her first year in office, and Geoff his second. Thank you both so much for your continued support, attention to detail and care for the church. We probably don’t all realise quite how much you do – but thank you for all you have done in the last year.
As we celebrate our 150th anniversary this year, we also look to the future. The key issues that we have to address are:
  • work with children, young people and their families
  • the modernisation of our church building
  • welcoming new people into the life of the church
  • plans to work more closely with Kelsall Methodist Church
    This seems more than enough for us to engage in, in the next twelve months, alongside our planned celebrations and the ongoing life of the church and community. But all of it needs to be undergirded with prayer – listening to, wrestling with, and receiving from God our Father. Let us pray for one another, and give thanks!
    Revd Peter Mackriell