Thank you so much to everyone who completed our survey about services in September / October. Here are some of the headline results and a sample of the comments that were made (the full results are available to download further down):
What elements of services do we most appreciate?
What about changing the pattern of services?
Click here to download the full results. And see the bottom of this article for more comments that people made.
The Church Council has pored over these responses. We’re trying to get consistency with the start time of services – but even that isn’t completely straight-forward! We’re also very aware that our staff team is considerably smaller than it was a year ago, and that in general, people’s willingness to help is lower than it was pre-pandemic. So there are significant challenges with moving back to 2 services on a Sunday morning on a regular basis – especially given that we only have enough helpers to run Junior Church twice a month at the moment.
In the mean time, we’re grateful for what we have got: the freedom to worship in public (which many of our sisters and brothers around the world don’t have); a congregation with a great range of ages (which many congregations in the Church of England don’t have); a good variety in the range of service styles we offer; and wonderful teams who welcome, make refreshments, lead us in sung worship, do the sound and live-streaming, preach, and lead children’s groups. Most of all, let’s be grateful that the LORD of heaven and earth, the King of Kings, has called us into such a diverse family, invites us to worship him, longs to speak with us, promises to be with us as we gather in his name and guarantees to listen to us when we speak to him. Wow – what a privilege!
So “let us not give up meeting together” (Hebrews 10.25). And “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give [us] the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice [we] may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15.5-6).
Some more of the comments people made:
“I don’t expect the services to always suit me and my preferences. I would expect them to be shaped so that they connect with people outside the church where possible”
“Quiet moments in the service, not marred by music playing at the same time as we are trying to pray or contemplate”.
“I would like to see meaningful teaching, heartfelt worship, a spirit-led church”
“Persist with testimonies and response from the congregation. We aren't very good at it, but perhaps with more practice...”
“I do really understand the challenge of meeting the needs of everyone is tricky, and I am mindful that we have limited numbers of some of the younger age groups in our congregation, and they do need to be a key consideration going forwards.”
“Would like more on living life (As a Christian), as feels very focused on explaining the bible passage with less weight on application sometimes.
“We love the fact that there is openness to explore different types of services and the emphasis on family discipleship followed through with Explore Together. Wonder walk and Angel's packs for home - Fab!”
“Prefer not the Explore services, don't find them a satisfactory act of worship, but recognise that some do like this form. I do usually attend and usually spend time with someone in the congregation who is obviously confused by it, e.g. visitors or elderly.”
“It would be nice to have a greater variety in the choice of traditional hymns. There are definitely more than 3 out there!”
“I regard as important singing that is well-led (trad or modern songs) that fit with any theme in the service - and I think we have this at the moment
“I enjoy it when there are bible passages from other languages incorporated. There is such a diverse range of cultures and languages represented in the congregation, it would be enriching to have some elements of these incorporated into our services more, for example their different styles and formats of worshipping - learning about these may open us and our faith up in new ways.”
“Different start times are rubbish”
“I think you need 2 services each Sunday with different styles/ target groups like you had before. I miss the 9.00.”
“Wonderwalk are awesome!”
It was announced this week that our vicar, Dan, is to become the Joint Area Dean of Southampton. What on earth is one of them, and what does that mean for us as a church?
In the Church of England, an Area Dean has some additional responsibilities, typically:
It's an encouraging role - I get to see and hear about lots of the great work happening in ordinary Anglican churches across Southampton - and have a hand behind the scenes in new church plants etc. Inevitably there will be difficult conversations as well: should that church building close? Is it worth appointing a new clergy person to that parish, or is there more chance of kingdom growth elsewhere?
I'm job sharing this role with Simon Robertson, vicar of Ascension Church in Bitterne Park (and former member of our congregation!).
In practise, it means I spend about a day a week either on Joint Area Dean business, or popping in to the local schools to chat with staff there - so my hours spent leading St James' by the Park have decreased.
The wardens have also encouraged me to take a week a term to continue trying to write another book - linked to the sabbatical I took back in 2019.
As a Church Council, we're looking to raise up more people into leadership to help fill the various gaps that have opened up with Georgia moving on, Paul changing role, and my new role. That's an exciting prospect - God has given gifts to all of us, and we'll be a stronger church when more people are released in to ministry within the church as well as in the wider community.
The PCC met in the parish hall on Monday 16th. A cold evening but plenty of warm-hearted discussion!
Luke 9: 1-6. "Jesus called his followers together... gave them power and authority... and sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God." A good reminder at the beginning of our meeting about our mission for mission!
We had the pleasure of Paul Thaxter dropping in to explain the proposal for adopting the Myanmar diocese as one of our new mission partners. We heard some background and watched a moving and thought provoking interview with the Bishop of the diocese in question- this led us to unanimously approve the start of what will hopefully be an ongoing and fruitful relationship. The PCC was keen that the congregation will get the chance to learn about why we are supporting this diocese- watch this space.
Our other main subject, an ongoing issue, was centred around how we form a shared leadership structure that allows the church to work productively for our parish and eases the burden on Dan. This is an issue that will continue to be discussed and prayed about in the coming weeks.
We also discussed issues such as the success or otherwise of ChurchSuite - generally a success but with the view to encourage more to use it, the appointment of a new handyman and ongoing work around safeguarding.
A few days after Christmas, I was reading the story of Simeon meeting the baby Jesus in the Temple courts (Lk 2.25-35), and I was struck by how he demonstrates the very things God is calling us to be at St James' by the Park:
Seeing those three characteristics in Simeon made me reflect back on some of the other Christmas characters, too. How about Mary?
How about Joseph?
So, as we step into 2023, the characters of Christmas have much to teach us at St James' by the Park. Let’s be courageous as we follow Jesus, knowing it will involve stepping out in faith, enduring scorn and shame. Let’s be whole-hearted for God, serving him with our whole lives as well as our lips, even if it means major changes to our own well-laid plans! Let’s be expectant that God will act in his good time, that God will keep his promises, that God will be faithful to us whatever we face.
Just imagine what God might do amongst us and through us this year if we all do those things!
Happy new year!
Last Sunday, Georgia announced that she's going to be moving from St James' by the Park to St Mark's Church on Archers Road, in response to God's call. Here's Georgia explaining why, and Dan responding:
As mentioned in the service, we will say a proper thank you and farewell to Georgia on 8th January, including sharing a church lunch together.
Anyone who wants to contribute to a leaving gift to Georgia can do so online (click here) or put cash or cheque in an envelope (clearly labelled as Georgia's leaving gift) to the church office.