Vicars APCM Report 2023

As I sit down to write this year’s report I have just come back from a full day of engagements. It began with meeting the Bishop of Sherwood, the Archdeacon and a group of clergy as we reflected and wrestled with the joys and challenges of ministry in each of our contexts. There are many things to be joyful for in the ministry here at St Anne’s. I spent the rest of the day working in those areas that bring the most joy. It is hard to say a funeral is a joyful occasion, but I came back to Worksop and donned my robes to lead a family as they said goodbye to their father. We remembered his life, we smiled at the treasured memories they have of him together and of course there were some tears. Where was the joy? In knowing what a privilege it is to be able to walk alongside people at times such as these – I am grateful to God that in a small way I can be a source of comfort to others, and I hope, showing them something of God’s love for them too.

As I arrived back at church my next stop was St Anne’s school. Our intern, Ella, who began in September, and is a joy to be around, was on a theology day with the Young Leadership College. So I was stepping in as a second with Claire at our new after school group – Connect Kidz. 25 reception to year 3 children, running around the school hall, playing parachute games and then seeing them immediately switch into listening mode as Claire spoke to them about Peter being imprisoned and rescued by an angel. Where was the joy? Well as we finished with a couple of worship songs one of the year 1’s was a little overwhelmed with the noise, and she came and we danced together and then as we prayed she grabbed my arm and whispered ‘will you say a pray for me?’ I don’t know about joyful – I could have easily shed a tear as the Spirit gently rested on this little girl.

They went home and we ran across to the hall, as we then had an hour with our year 4 – year 6 group, St Anne’s Kidz. 12 children, mainly boys, enthusiastic, full of energy, learning about God and how they can grow in their faith. I was bursting with joy as I watched Claire encouraging them to reach out to God in prayer. No sooner had they left than 10 young people rocked up for choir. Tonight they were learning a new song, being led and taught by some of the older youth. The joy of seeing a small part of God’s vision, given to us more than five years ago, actually happening. Young leaders, with the confidence to lead their peers in the worship of God.

I was getting ready for our inaugural Youth Café and our older teens came along, with a few friends and the younger youth, a buzz of excitement as they went upstairs to their newly cleared youth room, in the upper room of the hall. A visitor coming to share with them, how they might decorate to make it truly theirs. The smile on their faces was a joy to behold. And then the older youth, full of waffles and chocolate, also disappeared upstairs. As I left I popped my head in and there they were, lounging around on their new bean bags, intently listening to Selina as she too was encouraging them in their own faith and discipleship. I’ve come home shattered but so full of God’s joy at all God is doing in our parish.

So what’s that got to do with the year 2022, because that’s just a snapshot of one night in February in 2023. Well for me, today has been about God showing me, and perhaps you as you read this report, that in many ways 2022 was a little like building the foundations of a house. Have you ever driven past a building site and seen people working there for weeks and months, and seemingly nothing has changed? But then after a time you drive past again and you can’t believe how quickly all those houses have gone up? Well 2022 has been a year of building good foundations and it feels like 2023 will be the year where the walls go up – rather quickly it seems!

In all that we do the cornerstone has to always be Jesus. At the beginning of the year we were blessed to learn that as a church we were to be part of the Diocesan drive to invest in children and young people. Because of the previous work done in the parish, particularly with primary age children, we were asked if we would become a Children’s and Family Flagship and Youth Hub. We were able to secure funding for Selina’s role as Youth Team Leader and also tap into a grant to increase Claire’s role and hours as a Children’s and Family Team Leader. This funding is for five years. The targets are quite daunting, but we are excited by all that God is going to do.

Back to the foundations then. Selina had begun some initial contact at Portland Secondary school and we already had good links with St Anne’s Primary school, but we felt our Sunday service pattern was not really working as well as we felt it should be. We wanted it to reflect the different members we had in our congregation, but we felt we had become disjointed, each with their own service. We also felt as a leadership team and within the PCC that we didn’t quite have the right services to invite new people to, particularly young families. In May we put those foundations in place with our new service patterns. Interestingly, our yearly return would suggest that these new service patterns have not particularly affected our regular Sunday worship numbers. However, it does now feel like we are more together as a congregation and a church. Feedback from many of you has been appreciative of being able to keep a Eucharistic service at the heart of our Sunday offering, but we have seen new families attending our service for all-ages and Sunday evenings, although small, are a wonderful time of worship and reflection. This was certainly part of the getting the foundations right and centering ourselves on Jesus.

But where Sunday attendance has remained, in some ways stubbornly, static, our midweek offering and engagement, has been nothing but miraculous. God has been doing something amazing, through Selina’s work at Portland, through Claire’s work at St Anne’s school, through Bev’s work at Wednesday Welcomes and in the Care Home. Door after door has not just opened, but fallen off the hinges in our secondary school, leading to Selina being invited to the sixth form college and into Valley school as well. In fact so much so, that we are exploring how we can include Christchurch in the work we are being asked to do, because frankly, we’re at capacity.

We began St Anne’s Connect in May and we tentatively prayed for 20 children and their parents. In those first two weeks we had over 40 children and add in the adults it took us up to 70 each week. We thought ‘it’ll soon ease off and settle around the 50 mark’. Well it hasn’t, numbers have remained every Wednesday and it has been miraculous, amazing and, well to be honest, at least initially, bedlam. We have tried different ways of worshipping together, of engaging the families who were coming and it remained, amazing and bedlam. We prayed and I just felt that perhaps we just had to move the chairs slightly – well who knew an arc of chairs could make such a difference. We genuinely now give praise to God every week as it really is amazing! From this, we have been able to begin all our different children’s age groups meeting on a Thursday. We regularly, on a weekly basis, meet and teach, and disciple, 50 or 60 primary children and 15 to 20 young people. We meet with parents, at Connect and at Tot’s on a Thursday morning and we are now able to offer Christianity Explored courses because they want to find out more about who Jesus is for themselves.

It has been wonderful to welcome back Meet & Eat, each first Friday, and it is fully booked each time. Pat and the team do an amazing job providing a place for fellowship, joy, good food and fun. Bev gathers many at our Wednesday Welcome group and regularly visits people in the Care Home. Nigel is progressing with his training for ordination and we were blessed to find out he will be staying in our parish as curate for his training. He will be joined by Edith in July, moving from Clifton in Nottingham, for her to also complete her curacy training with us. Lianne has gone from strength to strength in her ministry and is now helping me as she develops her funeral ministry. We were blessed with Lydia’s ministry, particularly around worship, in the first part of the year and she is now thriving at Confetti, studying music and performing arts. Since September Ella has joined us, specialising on the tech side for Sunday services and a real asset with our children’s and youth work.

I remain forever grateful to so many of you for all your support and encouragement, your prayers and your suggestions. A thank you must go to all of the PCC, our wonderful church wardens Sarah and Andy, Ella, Tracey as treasurer and John as Lay Chair for all they do walking alongside me. They pick me up when I need it and they challenge me in the most beautiful way. Thank you to Mrs Middleton and team at St Anne’s school, I love being part of your school community and it is a privilege to work alongside you. I am fortunate to work with Stuart, he truly looks after me and is such a gift from God, as are the wider leadership team. And of course I truly am blessed with the team I work alongside on a daily basis, Claire and Selina. It is a pleasure to be in a team where we can laugh together, worship together, pray together and challenge each other. They truly are wonderful women of God that I have the honour of calling colleagues, but also dear friends.

It has been a year of building foundations and God has been and continues to be amazing and has been doing remarkable things. The joy I feel and the joy it is to minister here at St Anne’s at this time is humbling. I feel at times I’m just along for the ride. It feels messy at times, it feels a little out of control, and sometimes it feels frustrating, but I hold onto those verses in Proverbs 3:4-5; ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.’ We’re holding on, and trusting in Jesus as we go into this next year – and boy is that exciting, a little bit daunting, but most of all – joyful!