Vicar’s APCM Report 2024

I ended last year’s report with a quote from the bible 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.’ 2023 was a year of leaning on Jesus in all we did at St Anne’s. It always seems a bit odd to be writing the report for the APCM based on the previous year, because by the time we come to actually writing we are often 3 or 4 months into the new year. However, reflecting back I said that 2022 was a year of laying foundations and it felt like 2023 would be a year of seeing the walls go up. I think it’s fair to say that God has built come impressive walls at St Anne’s.

In many places where I look at the work of the Holy Spirit in the church life I see God doing some amazing things. New faces at our Sunday services, people growing in companionship and faith at Wednesday Welcome, children and families worshipping regularly on a Wednesday afternoon at St Anne’s Connect, children literally running to the groups after school and in church on a Thursday afternoon, our youth growing in faith and seeing young leaders for today and the future emerging. It seems that almost wherever I look God is doing a new thing.

In March we were approached by the governors at St Anne’s to see if we could help them out with a new venture of starting an after-school club, to provide wrap around care for working families. Claire and Selina, both trained Teaching Assistant, were keen to explore this new opportunity. It would present some difficulties as to how we might cover our existing children’s group and drop-in on a Friday, but in May we were blessed when Danielle joined the team to cover these groups and free both Claire and Selina, to run the After School Club. This began in June and continues to see growing numbers of children each evening. This provides an income for the church, but also wonderful opportunities to further engage with families through the school and part of the agreement with the school is that the club will have a distinctly Christian focus, both in values and themes.

At the end of June we were blessed to welcome Rev Edith as curate along with Rev Nigel who was also ordained and continuing his ministry here at St Anne’s, although now in a slightly different way as deacon, rather than reader. They have both made a good start in this next step in their own journeys of faith and beginning to establish their own distinct ministries within the team here. Bev and Lianne continue to lead services and develop their own distinct ministries, Bev with Wednesday Welcome and in the Care Home and Lianne with funerals. In October, after a year of weekly study, it was great to gather again at Southwell Minster, this time to support and give thanks, with Claire and Selina as they were licensed as Lay Ministers by the Bishop. They were licensed with a particular role to minister to Children and Families and Young People, a first for this Diocese. I am so grateful to all the team for all they do and the dedication they have, to further the mission here at St Anne’s and in our community. As always, I would be lost without Sarah and Andy and all they do as church wardens, both seen and mostly unseen, with ensuring services go well, cleaning, maintenance and looking after the church hall. A huge thanks as always to those who have served on the PCC and continue to challenge me and support me in my ministry.

It was with sadness in July when we lost our dear friend, and verger of so many years, Stuart. He meant so much to so many and was a rock of the church for so long. He often spoke of the love he had for the church and for those who attended. I felt very honoured to have known him, have worked so closely alongside him and to be asked to lead his memorial service in August. It was a day tinged with sadness, but we fondly remembered so many memories we had of him and to walk alongside Barbara and Jo during that time was a privilege. Stuart has left a huge hole in all our lives and all that he did, both for the church and in people’s lives, will not be forgotten. 2023 was also the year where our oldest member of the congregation Ken Storey was taken to be with our Lord. Again, it was a pleasure to visit Ken and hear his many stories of being in the choir at St Anne’s as a child, his recollections of Vicar’s past asking why they hadn’t been in church the previous Sunday and how he was always grateful for the many blessings God had given him. A truly inspirational gentleman and a privilege to lead his funeral service in May. Both were long time members of the church who remembered the church as it once was and yet were fully supportive of all we are now doing, with God’s help. They understood that as we minister to a new generation and a changing society, there is a balance to holding on to things of the past that continue to serve God’s purpose today but so important to embrace new ways of doing church that engages children, young people and families now.

As well as the many good things that God has been doing, 2023 has also had several challenges, not least around finance. It was a year, where we were all struggling with the cost-of-living crisis and rising food prices and energy costs have been a huge burden for many families. We are a church that believes hospitality, particularly around food, is so important in sharing God’s loves with others. This has proved challenging this year, but we remain committed to offering free events to our community or at a minimal cost and providing food and meals. We had some wonderful events in 2023 including a games evening, a barn dance, the annual quiz night raising funds for Tearfund, and welcoming children and family entertainer Duggie Dug in December.

However, you will see from the financial reports that in year, the church has made a significant loss of £48000. This has mainly been due to a significant increase in our energy bill. Our previous contract ran out at the end of December 2022 and we were struggling to secure a new contract at the start of the year, due to energy companies not offering fixed contracts due to the volatility of the energy market. We did secure a new contract, which was favourable at the time but significantly more expensive than the one we had previously, which had been taken out in January 2021. We had hoped that our new boilers would offset some of the costs in efficiency but as a comparison, the energy costs in 2022 for church and hall were just over £9000, in 2023 the energy bill was £42000. As you will appreciate this alone is more than we receive in regular giving and has made a huge dent in our reserve position, which was set aside for children’s and youth work. We will not be able to sustain this kind of loss again and so a number of steps have been taken to help in this. The gas meter, which was over 40 years old, has been replaced by British Gas and timers have been added to the hall heating system.

Even when the heating is working in church the ambient temperature is sometimes still below that of the outside. This is due in the main to the old heating system we have around the church, and even though we have new boilers, the radiators and piping are now not really fit for purpose. To replace this system is cost prohibitive presently, but the PCC continue to look for solutions. We are currently heading towards the warmer months again and the heating will be switched off, but it may be that towards the latter end of this year, an extra jumper or gloves and a scarf may be required when coming to worship. Edith will also be leading us in a generosity campaign over the coming months and we will be asking all those who attend and have a connection with St Anne’s to revisit their giving patterns and the amounts. We want to encourage everyone to think about what is a reasonable amount to give, given the increasing costs of energy, maintaining the building and keeping it open for worship. We believe in a God who is generous with us, and we want to encourage that same generosity in our giving as a church.

However, even with challenges, 2023 was once again a year in which there was much to be thankful for. Increasing regular attendance at Sunday worship, continued growing numbers at midweek worship, both adults and in our children’s, family and youth work. Growing connections with Portland secondary school, Selina acting now as unofficial chaplain, to both children and staff. As we head into 2024, there are many opportunities before us to continue to share the Good News of the Gospel. Alpha courses, baptisms and confirmation services will all form a part of our story this year, as well as going deeper in our discipleship and encouraging a praying, worshipping community of believers, both young and old, new and established, praising Jesus and being thankful for all that God is doing.

Rev Dave