Marie writes ...
As the nights are getting chillier and drawing in, the PCC spent a fruitful evening together to consider various aspects of church life.
In line with the current sermon series on discipleship, we began by thinking about some of the things that form our spiritual beliefs and behaviours, both unintentionally and intentionally. We focused in on ways to intentionally grow to be more like Christ, such as building a habit of reading the Bible and praying, being part of a Christian community and hearing Christian teaching. We were reminded that the desire and power to make these changes come from the Holy Spirit living within us, whoever we are. The resources we used to help our discussion were from talks by John Mark Comer – if you are interested you can watch his short talks on Unintentional Spiritual Formation and Intentional Spiritual Formation.
Like all older buildings, the church at St James' by the Park needs maintenance and upkeep. Every 5 years all churches undergo an inspection by an architect to work out what needs to be done and whether it needs to be done urgently or whether it can wait. Our new buildings maintenance manager Steve Condell has revisited the last inspection, which was done in 2016, and highlighted for us the things that need to be done within 5 years of the report that we haven’t done yet! The first of these was lightning protection, which will cost around £5,200. The second is the church clock, which requires cleaning and repairing of the mechanism (£3600) and restoration of the dials (£14,600). The third main issue was areas of the brickwork that need repointing to keep them waterproof; quotes so far come to around £4,000, but there are some other quotes still to come. The PCC had previously agreed to use up to £31,000 from our 2019 and 2020 surpluses on our buildings, so we decided to use some of this money to install lightning protection, repair the clock mechanism and to do the repointing. We will investigate grants towards the cost of restoring the clock dials before making a decision about it. We are grateful to Steve for his hard work on all this.
As we wait for the building plans for the Parish Hall to move forward, we received a proposal to reorganise and redecorate the back room of the hall to make it more warm and welcoming. This room is used by a number of groups but is uninviting and could be used much more than it is. As it will be at least 18 months before any building work is likely to begin, the PCC agreed to spend around £1,000 to pay for a revamp of the back room. Thank you to Zoe Craggs for all her great ideas!
Each year our church is invited by the Diocese of Winchester to give towards the Common Mission Fund – a pot of money used to help churches across the Diocese. The suggested amount to give is based on the wealth of the area in which the church is, with the aim of enabling churches who have more money to help those who have less. You can find out more about the Common Mission Fund here. In past years we have felt it appropriate to contribute more than the suggested amount (because the relative wealth of our congregation is greater than the relative wealth of our geographical area), and we hope to do the same again if possible and so will draw up the church budget for next year on this basis.
There are a couple of new groups that we have set up: a Buildings Finance Group to oversee the financial aspects of our exciting building plans, and a group to look at our ministry to the 18-30 age group.
As you can see, a lot of this month’s meeting concerned how to best spend the money we have been entrusted with. We are so grateful to God and those who sacrificially give to the church for making these things possible as we seek to be Jesus’ disciples within the church community and beyond.
Thank you for reading.
Marie, on behalf of the PCC
‘God created us in His own image, in the image of God He created us.’ (Genesis1:7)
If God is creative, then so are we!
Being creative is an expression of who we are, not something we do - so we are all creative whether we think we are or not.
Creativity can benefit our well being and give opportunity to connect with God and ourselves in a different way.
We're pleased to be hosting a workshop by Created Creative on Saturday 6th November - it will be a wonderful opportunity to be refreshed by God as we explore our God-given creativity.
Watch the video to get an idea of what it will involve.
All are welcome! (Under 18s need to be accompanied by an adult.) Sign up here if you'd like to come.
“Anyone who loves his father and mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:37-39
These are not comfortable words, are they? How well do they sit with you? However challenging we find them, these verses, for me, form the essence of Jesus’ call to discipleship. This is not a cosy message of self-improvement, of asking Jesus to help us with life’s difficulties and make our lives better but a demanding call to make Jesus centre and forefront of our lives.
As a church we feel God calling us again to both be authentic disciples and make authentic disciples. Jesus’ great commission calls us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them…..and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded” Matthew 28:19-20. What then is a disciple? The original Greek is “mathetes” which means student or learner. In Jesus’ time, rabbis would have had disciples, just as Jesus and John the Baptist did. These disciples would spend most of their time with their teachers, learning from them, obeying their teachings, following their behaviour and words. Today Jesus calls us to follow him in much the same way, making time to pray and read his word and follow his teachings, with the help of the Holy Spirit. However that is not where our discipleship ends. Jesus also calls us to be disciple-makers. Not just to leave it to the professional evangelists, vicars and youth workers, but all of us! Challenging stuff!
As a church we are going to be looking afresh at what the New Testament has to teach us about discipleship. We might experiment with using different words, such as apprenticeship, which gives a fresh perspective on the growing and learning aspect of discipleship. Ultimately, though, we will need to be prepared to be challenged and changed as God speaks to us and guides us. We might need to look again at our expectations of church and even of God. Do we come with a “what’s in it for me?” attitude or a heart of gratitude for God’s love and forgiveness and a desire to serve Him? Do we think of our Christianity as an added extra, an additional hobby that’s good for our mental wellbeing or is it an everyday whole life commitment? Is God just a port of call in the bad times and forgotten in the good? We need to be able to ask ourselves and each other these searching questions and be honest about where we are.
Challenging, yes. Cosy, no. But exciting? Absolutely. Remember Jesus doesn’t expect you to have everything sorted, to come fully formed. Jesus is there to teach and guide us and, through the Holy Spirit and the gift of one another, equip us with all that we need to follow him,
“to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21
One Christmas carol includes the line “Let the merry organ go” – and there is nothing quite like the sound and feel of a pipe organ going at full belt.
Sadly, our own church organ hasn’t been merry for several years – in fact, it is quite sorry. That has led our Church Council to reluctantly agree that we should let our sorry organ go. Let me explain.
Our church organ was built in 1932 and overhauled and enlarged in 1988. Over the last ten years the organ has suffered several faults which were repaired. However, in 2016 a major consistent fault occurred on one of the three manuals where notes were sounding on their own, and this quickly spread to most of the organ making it virtually unplayable. This fault was traced to a fault in the solid-state switching gear, probably caused by a small lightning strike.
Furthermore, the organ hasn’t been properly cleaned or overhauled since 1988 – which would also be needed to get the organ working well again for another generation.
The total repair bill for the organ has been quoted at nearly £110,000. That’s a lot of money! To put that in context, we would need a 42% increase in giving for a year to foot that bill.
The unanimous decision of the Church Council was that spending that amount of money on the organ would not be good stewardship of the finances God has entrusted to us.
The question has arisen now because of our buildings development plans – we needed to let the architects know whether or not we wanted to keep the organ. We have been advised that the organ (when repaired) is fairly decent, and that there is a demand for organs of this sort in Europe.
Hence the Church Council also agreed that it would be willing to remove the organ (hopefully to be repaired and put to good use elsewhere). This would free up space in a building project – we could gain a room nearly as large as the existing foyer, or space for an additional 20-25 seats.
We understand that some people will be very dismayed at the thought of losing the church organ. Please be reassured that as a church council, we remain committed to the use of an organ sound as part of our worship. We looked at the costs for a digital organ (whose sound quality is so convincing that probably 99% people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference) which would still cost approaching £40,000. Or we could get a high quality keyboard with good organ sounds for considerably cheaper. We have not made a decision on those yet – but be reassured, we will worship our all-powerful God to the grand sound of an organ for many years to come!
We know that some people will feel that removing the organ loses a big architectural feature of our church. In fact, it would be possible to retain some of the façade of the existing organ pipes if we wanted to (purely as an architectural feature). It should be noted that the organ isn’t original to the building, and that because of its situation, the vast majority of people who come into our church never actually see the pipes!
In our Church Council discussion, the question was raised about weddings and funerals – and about the need for an organ at these events. In reality, the number of weddings and funerals who want a full organ sound is now very small. Many choose contemporary music, and over recent years we have made good use of high quality mp3 recordings of hymns and carols when needed.
Nothing will change in the short term. It is bound to take a long time to get the necessary permissions from the Diocese to remove the organ, and to find a buyer, and to arrange for its safe removal. In the meantime, we’ll carry on worshipping God with our voices and other instruments, with songs old and new.
“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Colossians 3.16
In other buildings-related news …
We took a decision 3 years ago to sell the St John’s Centre. Since then we have liaised with architects, the City Council and local neighbours and are finally in a position to actually put it on the market – so you may see it advertised shortly. We know of a church who may be interested in buying the building as it is – and we will encourage a bid from them. (Under Charity Law, we are not allowed to sell the building privately – it has to be put on the market to establish the best possible price.)
We will keep you posted on progress in due course. In the meantime, whilst the building is on the market and whilst a sale is going through, a second Indian congregation are going to begin meeting in there regularly.
Here's Angel, our new Children & Families Team Leader, who has started work this week. Do pray for her as she settles in, welcome her and Nick - and get to know them!
If you'd prefer to just listen (eg whilst walking), you can download the audio here.