I got back from my Extended Study Leave (often called ‘sabbatical’) in mid-August. I’m enormously grateful to everyone who enabled my time out to happen by stepping up to the plate in my absence - especially to Lena and the rest of the staff team, and to our church wardens Simon and Pete. I had no doubt they would do a magnificent job – and I gather that’s just what they (and others) did!
I had various aims over the 3 months. First, rest. After 19 years’ ordained ministry, it was good to have some time out. Family life meant it was still fairly busy (at times I sympathized with the recently retired who say “how did I ever find time to work?!”), but not having any early morning or evening meetings was great and not having any deadlines was very relaxing.
Second, refreshment. Having lived in lots of different places as an adult, many of my good friends are scattered around the country. As a vicar, I don’t get many weekends off, so seeing those friends is difficult. My sabbatical gave me opportunity to meet up with those long-term friends, which I found really enriching.
Third, spiritual renewal. I really appreciated being able to spend a longer time than normal praying and reading the Bible and devotional books, and listening to relevant podcasts etc. I deliberately focused on the person of Jesus and prayer in my reading. I started journaling and writing out prayers – something I hadn’t done before but found helpful. I also started using the Psalms as a springboard for prayer, which opened up my prayer life way more than I imagined it could (although you might think that would be obvious!).
Another aspect of the spiritual renewal was visiting other churches around Southampton – Anglican, Baptist, Pentecostal, FIEC, Pioneer, Independent – many of them led by friends from Southampton Christian Network. A highlight was visiting one church where the sung worship was in a mixture of English and Hindi.
Fourth, research. The ‘study leave’ aspect of my time out was researching how we can help people to finish life well. I had a fascinating time reading books (Christian and secular) and chatting with a variety of practitioners and academics. I even chatted with a death doula!
The research will hopefully help me in my future ministry – and there’s the possibility of trying to get a book published on the topic so that others can benefit, too. I’ve written an outline and introduction so far, and will try to carve out time to keep writing over the coming months.
Finally, travel. The diocesan guidelines encourage people on Extended Study Leave to travel to another part of the world to experience God’s church in action in a different culture – because we have so much to learn from our brothers and sisters overseas. As a family we went to Lebanon for 3 weeks – a once-in-a-childhood experience for our boys. Some of the time we were working at a small school for Syrian refugee children, run by friends of ours – and it was certainly humbling to put a human face on the tragic events in Syria.
If you weren’t able to come to our open house on 1st September and want to find out more, do ask one of us!
What now? It’s good to be back, and I’m enjoying catching up with people!
But I shouldn’t just slip back into my normal routine. The challenge now is to embed what I’ve learned on my sabbatical into daily ministry here. You may well also have insights into this next stage of my ministry. My absence for a few months may have given you fresh perspective on my, and other people’s, gifts. What would you like me to do more of over the coming years? What do you think I shouldn’t spend so much time doing? I’d love to hear what you think – do pray about it and let me know!
Let’s look to our loving Heavenly Father to keep leading us on as his people in this place over the coming months and years.
New Look Crèche
As we began thinking about reorganising the crèche, we sat down and talked about what our ideal looks like. We came away with three key ideas: belonging, intentionality and safety.
We want the children of our church to feel that this is their church, where they belong, are loved and feel cared for by many people. We redecorated the crèche room, making it more welcoming and child-friendly with animal stickers, a big rainbow, a sparkly canopy and fresh mats and cushions. When children arrive in crèche, they take the animal with their name on from outside the door and place it on the Noah’s Ark inside the room.
It is easy, sometimes, to forget how much our little people are taking in and learning about their environment. In the interest of intentionally involving them in our faith, we are introducing Bible story time with their snack to be followed by a short, simple rhyming prayer and some worship music with instruments. We pray that this will be a meaningful contribution in developing their relationship with God.
Putting the safety of our children first, all our volunteers are safely recruited and DBS checked. We have also created registration forms to confirm we know relevant details for every child and introduced a token system for visitors to ensure we are giving parents confidence to leave their children in crèche giving them the freedom to fully participate in the church service. We ask that no outside food or drink is brought into the crèche room and that parents who wish to stay with their child use the foyer.
We would love to hear your feedback and new volunteers are always welcome, so please don’t hesitate to be in touch!
Rachel Madgwick and Julz Evans
quote: “It’s easy to forget how much our little people are taking in and learning.”
The PCC had a good day away last Saturday focusing on two vital aspects of the mission of God at St James by the Park. We considered feedback from all 7 mission focus areas as we put together our Parish Mission Action Plan (pMAP) for the next 4 years. We heard from the Buildings Development Group (BDG) as they work to ensure that our buildings are fit for purpose. They informed us of the process we need to follow to prepare St Johns for sale and for the next steps to allow for development of St James. The council have refused planning permission for a large side extension because the yew trees are part of a conservation order.
Lydia Caveney is now in her third year of uni at LSE. She writes about being involved in the Christian Union and running an ‘Events Week’ …
Our focus is to give everyone at LSE a chance to listen and respond to the amazing news of the gospel. LSE can be a stressful and intense place, with everyone focused on exams and internships and grad schemes. We want to bring Jesus’ love and light into the campus – so we put on a week of talks devoted to telling people the gospel.
In the run up, we had an acoustic night, where members of the CU played worship and pop songs, and shared their testimonies.
In the week itself we had a coffee stall every morning, giving out flyers. At lunchtime we gave out free lunches and had a talk that engaged with a relevant topic and then the gospel - such as “Is there more to life than a LinkedIn lifestyle?” The room was overflowing each day!
In the evenings we joined with other CUs across London at All Souls Langham Place for more food and a talk on the topic of being “found”.
I’m Prayer Sec for the CU, so I organised and led the prayer breakfasts every morning (very early for a student!!!) During the day, I helped out as needed, chatting to people at the talks.
After the events week, we had an Alpha-like follow-up course. My overall highlight was seeing the younger CU members, getting stuck in and serving and loving people - that was so inspiring, and makes me so excited to see how the CU grows next year once I’ve graduated!
Lydia (Left) with friends
"Uni can be a stressful and intense place. We want to bring Jesus’ love and light into the campus."
Prayer changes things. As we pray, we grow to know the Lord more, our hearts are opened for him to work in our lives, and our eyes are opened to see more of his work in our lives of those around us.
There is power in praying together. The 24/7 prayer movement shows how God is more than ready to listen to our prayers and answer in amazing ways. (Read Red Moon Rising and Dirty Glory by Pete Greig to be inspired!)
Scripture and Church history suggest that missional growth is the result of prayer more than any other single activity. But in a world where church members seem ever busier how do we build a church that prays? What does a 21st century praying church look like?
On Wednesday 15th May we’re hosting a training day called Leading a praying church. John Dunnett from CPAS is leading the day. He says, “In my 18 years of parish ministry I saw again and again how intercession could be both released within the local church – and change the missional fruitfulness of its ministry. So I’m very excited to be able to help those in church leadership think through what we can learn from Scripture, church history and the example of others about how to lead a praying church.”
The day is open to people from any church, and is aimed at anyone who has a heart for seeing their church pray.
“We’ve run this day in a number of venues around the country – and feedback has been exceptionally good,” John says. “Do join us if you possibly can.”
Further details and booking information at..
“I saw how intercession could change the missional fruitfulness of the local church.”
The day starts at 10.00am (coffee from 9.45) and finishes at 3.30pm. Refreshments are provided but please bring your own lunch. Booking is essential. Contact the church office or book online