An invitation from Dan to our Easter services and Annual Meeting (23rd April), plus an update from Katy about pastoral care.
So for our last PCC meeting we cancelled our usual Monday evening meeting for an away day instead. We spent the day at Brockenhurst church hall.
I had a bit of a nosy around the church hall as the building is a new extension on the existing church, with a hall, meeting rooms, offices and a creche. Good to see an example of a church that was done this well! Something for us to bear in mind as we continue working on our buildings proposals.
It was a great day where we had a lot more time to spend reading God's Word, praying and having fellowship with one another.
We had one primary item on our agenda for the day, and this was to spend time on our mission priorities.
From all the research that was conducted with you, other local churches, and local government/council some proposals were drawn up in advance by the strategy group.
We reviewed the proposals and discussed the finer details and logistics around them.
As you should be aware, whatever changes we implement will see some existing groups grow, some new groups start to shape up, and unfortunately other existing work start to wind down. So it is really important that we get this right!
We will be spending a bit more time on this before communicating our proposals. Whatever happens though, please know that we are here to support you through this change, and explore the opportunities available to you.
Till next time!
Some of the Beacon wrapping Easter Hampers Last Year.
Over the past 3 years, the Beacon Missional Community has been giving Easter Hampers of chocolate eggs, cakes and other food treats to families and individuals, in and around Shirley, who are struggling with their finances.
We are working alongside local organisations like SCRATCH, Christians Against Poverty and Southampton City Mission and are seeking to build relationships through our bi-monthly Supper Clubs. As we try and bring hope, help and support, we are aiming to demonstrate the love of Jesus and our prayer is that in time we will see people come to faith.
Can you help by donating some food items for Easter Hampers this year? We are planning to package everything up on Wednesday 21st March in the Parish Hall from 7pm. Any donations can be brought to church or the Parish Office before that date, clearly marked “Beacon Hampers”. Please check that all items have a use by date that is after Easter, as it may take us a week or so to complete deliveries. We’d also love it if anyone would like to come and help us pack; we’ll be chatting and eating cake as we gift wrap the parcels! Offers of help with deliveries are also appreciated.
Last year we made up about 20 hampers and we anticipate making a similar number this year. If you are aware of an individual or family, whether inside or outside of church, who would appreciate a package, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
19 February 2018
On Sunday, Simon Clift spoke on fasting [see ‘current sermon series’] from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. I sense this is a real ‘word in season’ for us for three reasons:
a) It ties in with the ‘spiritual health-check’ we did on Ash Wednesday and the suggestion that people use the ‘spiritual healthcheck’ book individually during Lent. (If you hadn’t heard about that, look at this blog [http://www.stjamesbythepark.org/blog/taking-a-spiritual-healthcheck] or pick up the materials from church next Sunday.)
b) This coming Saturday, the PCC are having an away day at which we’ll be looking to make decisions about the key mission priorities we want to have as a church over the coming years. This is the culmination of last term’s “Big Yes” / “discerning our collective mission priorities” evenings which many came to. In due course, the priorities the PCC decides upon will help to shape our decisions about buildings and budgets - as well as shaping the life of lots of groups within the church.
c) This coming Saturday is also a worship training day for our bands and tech teams, led by Neil Bennetts. As many of you know, the last year or so have been a testing time for our bands and tech teams, and this will be a great opportunity for them to come together to worship and learn together as they seek to serve God and us and lead our church in worship.
In the light of this, I’d love you to consider agreeing one day this week, or this coming month, when you will fast.
Simon gave some suggestions during the sermon as to what that might look like - typically going without food (but drink plenty of fluids) between an early breakfast and an evening meal; or for 24 hours. Some of you may need to seek medical advice first to see whether it is wise, but for the vast majority of people, fasting can be a really healthy discipline - and of course, when we are fasting to seek God, it becomes of great spiritual worth, too.
Specifically, would you pray and fast for our PCC (as they make these key decisions and work out how to implement them) and for our bands and tech teams (as they continue to adjust to lots of changes and seek to lead us in worship)?
Fasting isn’t just for the ‘super-spiritual’. It has been a common practice for most Christians for most of the last 2000 years - but is something that our generation has lost. Jesus clearly expects us to - so let’s learn together.
I’m suggesting that each cell group and missional community commits to experimenting with fasting on the same day (even though some will be at work, others on holiday etc) because we often need the encouragement of others to start at something which seems daunting. That’s why some who want to start running choose to join a ‘couch to 5k’ running group - it provides encouragement whilst training, and a degree of accountability. If your group fasts on the same day, you can message each other through the day to share how it’s going, and reflect on the experience together.
If you’re not in a cell group or missional community, choose a day to fast - you can always ask other friends in the church to give you particular encouragement on that day.
Who knows - once you’ve done it once, you may want to try again (for a slightly longer period?) later in Lent. Simon shared yesterday that since he started experimenting with fasting over the last couple of months, he has experienced a greater hunger for the things of God - in addition to a new enjoyment of food and a new awareness of how food can diminish us.
Let’s seek God together in prayer - and in fasting - for the life of our church and our mission in this area. Let’s pray - and fast - for God’s Kingdom to come and his will to be done.
We take cars for annual MOTs. Some of us get regular physical health-checks. When was the last time you took a spiritual health-check?
On Ash Wednesday, we gave the opportunity to take part in one. For those who weren't able to make it, here's some of what we covered:
Spiritual health is closely tied to spiritual growth. Sadly, for many Christians, a spiritual growth chart looks something like this:
In other words, after we become a Christian, we grow spiritually quite rapidly - but then we plateau for the rest of our lives until we die. At that point, Jesus completes our spiritual transformation (we are renewed in body, soul and spirit) and we get to live in his presence. That spiritual growth chart is similar to a physical growth chart for humans - growth through childhood and adolescence, but then no more growth for the rest of our lives.
But the Bible pictures spiritual growth as being more like this:
In other words, we should be on an overall trend of spiritual growth throughout our lives. Yes, there are ups and downs along the way. But by the time we die, we should be considerably more spiritually mature / healthy than in the immediate years after we become a Christian.
The apostle Paul was a great evangelist - but he wasn't just interested in people becoming Christians. He was passionate about Christians becoming more spiritually mature: "We proclaim him [Christ], admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect [mature] in Christ" (Colossians 1.28).
Similarly, when talking about why Jesus gave certain gifts to the church, Paul explained that it was "so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity ... and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." And the effect of this maturity? "Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching ..." (Ephesians 4.11.16).
Spiritual maturity means becoming more and more like Jesus. Here’s Paul writing to the Corinthians: “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory" (2 Corinthians 3.18). John Ortberg describes the effect of spiritual transformation like this: "When transformation happens, I don’t just do the things Jesus would have done; I find myself wanting to do them. They make sense. I don’t just go around trying to do the right things; I become the right sort of person."
So ... being a spiritually healthy Christian means growing to spiritual maturity - becoming more and more like Jesus. And that's a lifelong process - not one that stops after spiritual adolescence!
We developed some questions (actually, we borrowed bits from various different sources) to help each of us diagnose the state of our own spiritual health. Click here to take this 'spiritual health-check' yourself.
Go on - give it a go! You've got nothing to lose and everything to gain. As you fill it in, be honest - this is just between you and God. If you score low in a section, it doesn't mean you're a bad Christian - it's just flagging up areas where you can grow.
A physical health-check is only beneficial if we begin to put into practice the GP's recommendations. It's the same with this spiritual health-check. If you just leave it there, it's been a waste of time. To get the most out of this health-check, once you've done it, choose one (or maybe two) areas which have been highlighted as needing some attention, and begin to work on it, prayerfully.
And don't work at it alone! Spiritual growth comes as we allow God's Spirit to work in us, and it happens in the context of Christian fellowship. Learn from the wisdom of others who are stronger in that area than you are.
And if you want some more ideas on how to work on these areas, specifically on 'spiritual disciplines', here's the 'growing spiritually' handout we used to help people follow-up.
Have fun - and let us know how you get on!
"In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy ... being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1.4-6).
Hi St James Family!
It is now about 5 months since I left Southampton and moved to Bristol. For those who don’t know/remember, I am currently living in Bristol and doing an internship with a church called Woodlands on the New Wine discipleship Year. I’m doing a leadership placement, and spend my weeks serving in my church, getting theology training and putting this training into practice in my placements. It has been a crazy 5 months with the adjustment of living without mum and dad, being in a completely different city and working rather than going to college.
I have some amazing people from St James who are supporting me this year both financially and in their prayers. Each month I send out an update, but I was speaking to mum over Christmas and we realised that no one else from home has any idea what I’m up to here!…
As I said, I am doing a Leadership Placement. This sees me being heavily involved with the running of our Alpha course - which runs every term and has between 60 and 100 people coming each week. The person who does all of the admin for this has just stepped down, so I am now doing a lot of the behind the scenes work to make each Alpha night run smoothly. It’s been great to just be given the trust to do this. It has also taught me a lot about how leadership isn’t always the upfront people; its the behind the scenes people that often get overlooked who help to make services and events happen.
I am also helping to start up a new children’s group at out 9:15 service that we have every Sunday morning. I and another intern (Hannah) have been asked to start a new group for year 2 children as their normal group has got too large. This is quite a big task, one that we are really excited about and again, thankful to the Woodlands staff for giving and trusting us with this task. Our first session with the kids is this Sunday (4th Feb), so prayers for that would be greatly appreciated!
The Discipleship Year was 100% the right choice. I spent a lot of last year searching for something to do when I left college, and decided that I was going to come to Bristol about a month before I moved. But the people that I have met here and the experiences that I have had tell me that I am exactly where I need to be. I am part of a team of 13 interns and I completely love each and every one of them. We bonded very quickly as a team and now are very much like family. Just having people here who support and love me is something that I cannot express how grateful I am for. I am so thankful to God for guiding me to Bristol and putting me in a place where I am so loved and cared for.
I have also learned a lot about myself in the last few months. I was never that confident in who I was as a person or how I looked. But in the last months, God has taught me to love myself for how he loves me - and I have completely fallen in love with myself. To look in the mirror and like what I see is a very strange and new experience, but one that I don’t want to go away. One of the phrases that us interns use a lot is “Confident in Love” - this is how I feel…confident in the love that Jesus has for me, no matter what I look or what I wear.
I would love it if you could pray for me - even all the way back in Southampton!…
- my future is still quite uncertain. I feel like God may have called me to do something next year but its all very new so would love prayer for reassurance and answers. I have learned to trust God’s timings because his plans are better than my own, but there is still the part of me that worries about the future!
- each month I am still struggling a little financially and had to pay rent very late this month. Once again, I completely trust that He provides, but prayer for that provision would be greatly appreciated!
- last term I got very tired because I was doing a lot of work. I’m getting good at saying ‘No’ and have learned that it is a good word! Please pray that I wont get too stressed or tired, and that I will be able to find a good balance of ‘work and play’.
- finally, that God will continue to work in me. He has been so faithful and loving towards me over the last few months. He is working in me in ways that I never would have imagined. Please pray that he will keep working in me, and transforming me into his disciple.
I really do miss my Southampton church family. It was very strange being back at Christmas but I really loved being back in the building and seeing so many people. As I said, I do a monthly update and if you would like to be added to this I would be more than happy to put you on the list, or am happy to answer any questions you have about what I’m doing here in Bristol - just give me an email on email@example.com. I’m normally quite fast at replying, it just depends on how busy I am!
Hopefully you enjoyed this little update on how I’m doing, its very strange that I haven’t lived in Southampton for 5 months, but I know I’m exactly where God wants me and am loving every day of being in Bristol and working for Woodlands.
With love and blessings,
Here's Dan filling us in on plans for the 'Spiritual Health-check' evening, plus updates on mission priorities, buildings and Alpha ...
Loneliness is rife amongst older people. There's even a government minister for loneliness now. (One joker said there should be two of them so they don't get lonely ...)
We've got a wonderful opportunity to invite local older people to a lovely tea party with live music, plenty of tea and cake - and opportunities for ongoing friendship.
It's on Saturday 10th February, from 2-4pm at Shirley Parish Hall. Is there someone you could invite a long - a near neighbour? Someone you see at the shops? Someone you see walking the streets?
Tickets need to be booked - call 023 8021 6016 (on the day only: 07543 945770). Suggested donation £2.50 per person (pay on the door). Leaflets are available from St James' by the Park.
Donations for transport are also welcomed!
Helen Bathard writes …
I didn't get a chance to write a blog in December with wrapping things up at work and Christmas, but I hope you all had a peaceful and joyful time and enjoyed one or more of the Christmas services we had here at St James' by the Park.
To start our PCC meetings off, we have been taking it in turns to give our testimonies, but we've all taken our turn, so we're now looking into a short bible study. We like to spend a bit of time reading God's word, and in prayer before we get down to business!
Our first order of business was to run through a quick review of how things have been since we changed our service pattern. This not only affected our congregation but also the many people that support our services. Without them, we simply wouldn't be able to run our 2 services every Sunday. If you don't yet support one of the many activities at church and you'd like to, there are many ways you can get involved. We'd love to hear from you no matter what your gift is! Take a read of 2 Corinthians 9 v7-8.
Next, we discussed all the research that has been done to date about our mission priorities. This involved surveys and also talking to people in our local community, other churches and local government. We are really trying to get a well rounded view about what we should be focusing on. We will be spending more time looking at this and praying about it before any decisions are made.
We had a quick update from Chris on our buildings project. We need to put an access document together as part of the pre-planning application, so we approved that next step.
The PCC have an away day coming up in February in Brockenhurst. Being new to the PCC this will be my first one of these so I don't really know what to expect, but will be nice to spend more time getting to know each other as a group and more time focusing on business.
The congregation from Sunday@3 took their annual pilgrimage to Brockenhurst over the Summer. Esther Clift writes ...
For some folk this is the furthest they have travelled for some time, so the delight of pointing out familiar landmarks, and memories makes the excursion all the more fun! It’s a chance to hear more about one another’s lives -
I didn’t know June was born in India, nor that her parents were both faithful members of the congregation, as church warden and church hall supervisor, and how hard it was for her to go into the hall after they died, as it was filled with so many memories for her.
Rev Neil Smart (a former curate at St James' by the Park, now vicar in Brockenhurst) had put together a great Songs of Praise style service with the Ringwood Salvation Army Band blowing their hearts out for us.
It was such a lovely sunny day, we were arranged under a tree to get some shelter from the sunshine. The brass band drew in folk who were passing, and neighbours to St Saviours who came out to see what was going on! There was a glorious celebratory atmosphere - a continuation of the party the day before to celebrate Neil being at Brockenhurst for 10 years.
Some of the folk were asked to tell their own stories through the hymn they had chosen. One lady explained that ‘To be a Pilgrim’ had been her school hymn, which she had sung though out her childhood with no idea as to its meaning. She’d done an Alpha course, more recently and met the real Jesus who she now follows, and the penny dropped for the old hymn!
It’s such an encouragement to hear peoples’ stories and their journey of faith, and to see that older people are also coming to faith. We have in this demographic, the last cohort of people who lived in the ‘Christian’ era (as apposed to our post Christian current days). Most people went to Sunday School, and have the basic teachings of Christianity as part of their schooling. But many have since moved away from a personal expression of faith, for a whole variety of reasons. Its really encouraging to see people re-engaging as they think again, or as they look for another community to engage with, and find the church to be welcoming, and relevant to where they are at. Research suggests that older people who have a sense of purpose and hope, often age much better than those who don’t. This gives us a compelling reason to invite people to join our community of faith.
Do you have an older neighbour you could bring along to Sunday@3? (which meets on the third Sunday of each month)
Or is there anyone in your family who might resonate with our quieter contemplative services at 9 am?
We are also planning a ‘Neighbourly Love’ tea party in conjunction with Communicare on February 10th in the Parish Hall, for anyone in our wider community, who might like to get out a bit.
Who might you invite?