APCM – Vicars Report

Every year the church holds an APCM, an annual general meeting, to reflect on the previous year. to go through the accounts, to elect new members of the PCC (Parochial Church Council) and the Vicar is also invited to share something of their vision for the future. As the first piece on this blog page I thought I would share my report with you and hopefully something about me as minister. It’s a little long – but stick with it, the vision of how church might be would be wonderful if we are able to see God’s will done here in Worksop.

“As I sit down to write this report the boys this evening have been playing in the living room together. They are able, it seems, to watch what is on telly, play with toys in the room and jump on each other with great hilarity all at the same time and even tease the dogs as well. As I watch them it reminds me of the joy of parenthood and the complexities of nurturing and seeing two young lives grow and the great responsibility this brings to me personally.

In many ways I see my role as a priest and as the vicar at St Anne’s in very much the same way. I believe strongly that God has brought my family and I to Worksop and over the last year we have seen many signs of confirmation of this through things that have happened and the blessings we have seen poured out on us and the congregation at St Anne’s. It is a very humbling experience to be able to minister in a place such as this and many of you have welcomed us with open arms and have allowed me to walk with you at some wonderful times but also at some very painful times. All I can say is that I feel very privileged to be here and remain excited and expectant about all that God still has to do both with our church and in our community.

I know my start was somewhat delayed by the holiday season and no sooner had we arrived but I was off to Cornwall – it was lovely for us, but I know for those who continued to cover services and the occasional offices this was an unexpected additional strain on their time and commitments. Thank you to all of you for allowing us some much needed time together and rest at the start of our ministry here. I would also just like to acknowledge all those who throughout the interregnum kept St Anne’s and our sister churches at St Mary’s and St Winifred’s on an even keel. Without each of you and the care, support and goodwill you gave during this time, the churches would not have been in the blessed position I found when I took up my licensing here. There were so many of you who stepped up during that time, and continue to do so, but I would just like to especially mention Christine Greeve who took up many additional tasks during the interregnum which meant my handover was a much smoother process than it could have been. Even though she is sorely missed by so many in our family here at St Anne’s, I know her long awaited move to Cheshire was a real blessing for both her and the family.

Much of the first part of 2017 was spent advertising for and successfully recruiting a new Priest in Charge but the church didn’t stand still in this time and there were many other projects and items of discussion during this time that both the PCC and the church took on. The quinquennial report was due this year and many items highlighted have already been worked on and good progress has been made to the recommendations we received regarding the building. Many of you helped to organise social events and Verity and I were particularly blessed with the service of welcome and the refreshments afterwards that were provided by so many in the church community. Thank you to all the PCC and to you as church members for all that you contributed to God’s kingdom here in Worksop during 2017.

And so September came and the real work of my ministry here began. Even in such a short time and with the help of God many things have already been achieved.  Changes to the physical appearance of the church, such as the new lighting system and the office, have been a crucial step forward in getting us to a place where we can move forward in God’s mission for our church. There has been great excitement and celebration in the way each of you have once again embraced Messy Church, the Light Party and the Christmas services. A highlight of my first months was the wonderful Remembrance Day service where as a community we came together to remember all those service men and women who have given their lives and continue to place themselves on the front line for each of us.

There has also been some sadness, and I’m sure in a way a bereavement process, over the last year as St Anne’s has seen many senior ministers move on to other things. Simon and Liz’s departure was quickly followed by Luiz’s move to Christchurch. It was with great joy, but I’m sure too some sadness for our community at her moving  on, when Becky who had spent her ordinand year with St Anne’s was ordained in the summer and began her curacy in Bawtry and then only a month later we also said goodbye to Christine. For any community to lose one of these key figures it would be a set back but to lose five within a 12 month period is hard to take and needs to be acknowledged as part of the story that you as a church have been through recently. At our away day in January we spoke of this sense of loss as part of the journey you have been on and I have been thinking and praying since then how we can best acknowledge this. I believe that a physical act of drawing a line under this part of St Anne’s journey may well be welcomed and therefore on the Monday of Holy Week in the evening I am going to hold a short service of healing and wholeness in the lady chapel (or indeed the church if there is a larger take up) for those who wish to come. This will be a time to acknowledge the past and turn our hearts to the future and all that God has in store for us. Do look out for details of this service in the notices.

So as we look back on an eventful 2017 the APCM is also a time to begin to cast a vision for the coming year and indeed the future. Some of you joined me in January at Christchurch as I have mentioned for our Vision Day and this was a wonderful time of fellowship and I felt a real sense of God’s presence as we met together. We were able to be frank and honest about the place we are in as a church and began to think big about what God’s future may hold for us. It was both exciting and a little bit daunting to hear some of the ideas and direction you think God is taking us on and we continued to build on this at the last PCC of this term in February.

Our next task as a church is to start to seek God’s vision for the church and how we together can further God’s kingdom. I have recently returned from a conference in Harrogate and over the coming months I will be sharing something of what I believe God has been saying to me through this and other conversations with church members. However, we will also be asking you all as a congregation to start to share in home groups and with each other and the senior team and PCC where you think God is calling us. We are a mixed and diverse congregation, but many of our members are involved in many different roles and professional lives and I believe that as a church one of the things we are being called to do is grow people in their faith and for them to have a confidence in their own beliefs and principles. We as a church need to build each other up to release each other into our everyday ministries at our places of work and with those who we come into contact with on a daily basis. I hope over the coming year we start to see a stronger emphasis on home groups and if you are not already a member of one I encourage you to find a group you can join.

At the away day it very quickly came to light that our strengths as a church were how we believe people are welcomed and the opportunities we have to reach out to families in our community. We are hoping to develop ways we can make these key priorities and we have already started with our ‘Wednesday’s at St Anne’s’, the development of Messy church and the change in service times. Our work through the occasional offices of baptisms, weddings and funerals is huge and we need to think again about how we helpfully use these brief encounters with people at key times to draw them further into the life of the wider church.

It has been a real joy for me over my time here to build relationships with St Anne’s and Cuckney schools as a governor but also as a visitor to the schools through assemblies and other invitations. Having St Anne’s visit the church regularly is also a real blessing and pleasure and the services we have shared together have been wonderful times of celebration. I very much hope these relationships continue to develop and my prayer is that over the next few years some of you will feel confident and able to join me in this work in and with the schools.

I am certain that God is calling us to look at different ways of worship, not just here in Worksop, but the church as a whole. I also whole heartedly believe that God is calling us at St Anne’s to be a Church for the whole community. At St Anne’s we are in a unique position to affect how families operate and relate to each other. When I say family I don’t just mean children but I mean the whole family unit.  We engage children, parents and grandparents, but also brothers and sisters of parents, their children and so, hopefully, the networks and relationships develop and maybe they start to think differently as well. Christianity Explored, a families course, the schools work, weddings and baptism preparation are all different but relevant ways of not just proclaiming the gospel of Christ but affecting the social make up of our community and country. We see in the gospels and in the Acts of the Apostle’s family units worshipping together, learning together and living together. It is only our modern western church that has lost the view of the whole family learning and worshipping as one.

In church, we have one of the few opportunities in Western society to be a real all-age community, a community where cerebral learning (head learning) is only one aspect of lifelong maturing. In church, people of all sorts can come together to be vulnerable together and grow together. It’s a place where the power balance is turned upside down and the nobodies have as much clout as the somebodies – not because everyone is the same, but because everybody is needed for their differences. Our diversity is something to celebrate. We are gloriously different – and not just in age.  So why in church, do we traditionally focus on the difference in age? I believe that through our new service patterns and particularly in Messy Church, but certainly not exclusively, we are starting to explore and embrace what this might mean for us here in Worksop at St Anne’s. In light of this I am very excited at the prospect of employing both a youth worker and a Family and Children’s worker hopefully by the summer. The PCC had already made the bold decision to set aside a significant legacy for this purpose and we are now praying that God is already stirring up the hearts of two people to take up these new and exciting roles. The adverts are currently being publicised and I would encourage you as you pray over the next few weeks and months, hold these two positions and those who we are confident will fill them, up to God.

Change can be a difficult thing to embrace. Some will thrive and others will shy away. We will struggle to please everyone and sometimes in trying to do so we end up pleasing no one. Over the last six months I have spoken to many people who are involved in the up front ministry here at St Anne’s. I have given them license to try new things, to experiment a little, to seek where God is. This will no doubt affect our worship and in fact already has. Sometimes that will be amazing and at other times will feel incredibly uncomfortable, both for you but also for them, and indeed definitely for me! But I urge you, please be quick with your praise and slow with your criticism. We are all children of God and we need to learn to deal with each other, gently, kindly, patiently. In a loving, peaceful way, bearing with one another and measuring our words to bring joy. That sounds like the fruit of the Spirit. A kindly word after a service and a more measured reflection are far more helpful than a quick word and a feeling of regret later. We won’t always get it right, but I can almost guarantee we’ll know before you that it’s not right and what we did wrong and we will be our own greatest critic, we don’t need another one. In fact it could be your word of encouragement afterwards that spurs us on to do better next time, but almost certainly your word of criticism will crush us and we’ll be unlikely to try anything again, or at least for a long time. When we do though, when we do get it right, when God meets us, when the Spirit moves, how wonderful that is and those days where it didn’t go so well are quickly forgotten, my plea is give us a chance to get there though because when we do we all see a little bit of heaven.

I would like to finish with a short piece I found recently regarding all-age worship and involvement in church. If St Anne’s were to have a manifesto I hope it would look something like this:

We believe in God who created us for him and for each other.

We believe in Jesus who welcomes young and old without exception.

We believe in the Holy Spirit who transforms the life of all believers, young and old.

We believe in meeting God most intimately in the lives of those who are different from ourselves.

We believe in a church which reflects God, the three in one.

We believe we grow closer to Jesus as his disciples when we:

  •  worship God in a variety of ways, both familiar and different.
  • worship in community as well as individually.
  • worship in a way that encourages everyone to participate.
  • worship in a way that both enriches and is enriched by our everyday life.
  • worship God with all that we are.

 Reproduced from ‘All-Age Worship’ by Lucy Moore, (The Bible Reading Fellowship, 2010, p11/p12

Rev Dave Gough