I hope that after the end of another exhausting few months, you'll be getting a bit of a break at some point over the summer holidays - although doubtless some of you (like me) will be trying to navigate home-working with childcare as well!
Time for a quick update on what's happening for children and families over the coming months. Do skim through this and pick out the bits relevant to your family - including some free give-aways at the end.
* It was great to welcome some children back to Flames (age 3 - yr R) and Bubbles (yr 1-5) in June and July, and especially to see how they got used to being in those spaces again.
* I'm also delighted we've had a creche drop-in session, with another one planned. With so many babies around, we're expanding the creche area so there's safe space for all who come.
* Over the summer holidays, there won't be any specific children's groups on Sunday mornings, but children will be more than welcome - we've got the baby corner and family mats back out, and activity buckets and bags for those who do come. (Here's a description of covid precautions at the moment, if you're interested, or watch this section of the video update.)
* For those of you worried that your children will be too noisy in church - let me just say that we've so missed the noise of children in church that it's an absolute delight to have them back in and running around! It's quite natural for them to want to explore the space! Remember, your children always sound louder to you than they do to others. And there's always the self-service creche room that you can use if you feel they're getting too boisterous.
* We will also keep including suggestions for videos to watch with your children at home - but do also let us know other resources you've found helpful!
* We're continuing discussions with someone who we may yet appoint as a full-time Children's Team Leader. Please keep praying for that process!
* We're aiming to get junior church groups back off the ground regularly, but with depleted teams, it's going to take a while to get there. So when term starts in September, we will move to a temporary alternating pattern of 10am services - 2 Sundays a month will be geared towards families (but those without children will be more than welcome!); 2 Sundays a month will be less geared towards children (but those with children will be more than welcome). More details nearer the time, or watch this section of the latest video update.
* It was great to have a few sessions of Ark Babies before the summer holidays; we hope to re-start The Ark fully in September, welcoming all babies and preschoolers with a parent or carer.
* Your children's safety is of paramount importance to us. We have been thinking carefully about making sure that children who should not appear on the livestream for safeguarding reasons do not inadvertently do so. And how to make sure children don't accidentally escape from the building whilst we're keeping the doors open for increased ventilation.
* At our Environment Sunday outdoor service we gave away copies of 'Planet Protectors' to lots of the children aged about 5-10. If you didn't get one and would like one, do get in touch. Let's model to our children how serious we are about taking care of God's world!
* We're all hoping that we're through the worst of the pandemic, although we know it's not over yet. But now might be a good time to sit and reflect with your family as we look back on the pandemic and the highs and lows we have all felt. This excellent free resource helps families do just that in quite a simple way, acknowledging that each family's experience has been different, and that whatever we have been through, God has been at work in us.
* Finally, I've got a copy of "Praying for your kids through the year" - 365 days of short Bible reflections that point us to how to pray for our children. Free to the first person who asks! Don't be shy!
Thanks for making it through to the end. Do be in touch and let us know how we can be praying for you or supporting you through the coming weeks and months.
Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” (NLT)
Being part of the PCC has its challenges, but we all have a common goal. To do what is best for the church, its buildings, the church family, and the wider community whilst the same time being aware of how this all affects our ministry and relationships with Up, In and Out.
We know some of our decisions are not going to please everyone but with prayer and supplication we move forward.
Let’s jump right into what has been happening …
We have had two applications for the children’s team leader position. We interviewed both candidates earlier in July, enlisting the help of some of our children. Please continue to pray for this ongoing process and that God's choice for this post is appointed.
The news of Bishop Tim’ retirement affected us all. We have been praying for God’s grace in this situation and what it means for our church and the diocese.
The work on the buildings’ projects continues and we are seeing real progress. God continues to move His Spirit in the process, and with the planning permission now granted to help the sale of St Johns we are encouraged by the next steps. Please pray for the Building Development Team as they decide which estate agent to use.
We know some of you may struggle with these changes and that it’s not clear why we have to change. We don’t want to move so fast that we don’t recognise ourselves as a church but not so slow that we lose sight of our greater purpose. Please pray that whatever your experiences that God is in our hearts, guiding us.
Be blessed this coming month and enjoy the sunshine!
Jeremiah 29:11 says "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, “plans to proper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Bishop Tim, (the Bishop of Winchester and senior bishop in the diocese) has announced that he is standing down from his post. The pandemic has forced a lot of change in the diocese and it became clear that +Tim had lost the trust of quite a few people throughout the diocese over a number of years. So after a period of reflection and discussion, he’s announced his intention to retire early and will be handing over his responsibilities over the coming months.
Bishop Debbie (the Bishop of Southampton) has done a great job at steering the diocese over last few months. Bishop David (the Bishop of Basingstoke) will resume his duties and a recently retired diocesan bishop will help Debbie and David over the coming months.
It's clear that there's a lot of pain in the diocese and need for healing. Please pray for Bishops Tim, Debbie and David and all who are involved in this process - that somehow God would bring good things out of this painful season.
Bishop Tim’s video announcement is below.
Jesus said it's more blessed to give than to receive. Any adults knows how true that is: just give a child a present and feel the joy inside.
Jesus asks his followers to give - time, treasure and talents - to help build his kingdom. We are so grateful for everyone in the congregation who gives in one (or all!) of those ways.
One way of giving financially to build God's kingdom that many of Jesus' followers haven't yet thought about is leaving a legacy to Christian charities or churches in their wills. In recent years, legacies left to our church have enabled us to buy new Bibles and purchase tablets for use in Junior Church. Long before that, a legacy enabled us to put the sloping ramp up to the church building's front door - something pushchair and wheelchair users have been grateful for for decades! Isn't it great to know that faithful followers of Jesus have been serving us even after they've gone to glory?
An unusual opportunity has come up for us: if you haven't yet made a will, or haven't updated it recently, we've been offered some free wills (RRP £90) as part of a Church of England pilot project. There's no catch although part of the deal is that you will be asked if you want to give to your local church in your will. There's no obligation to say 'yes'! But if you do, future generations would thank you :-)
This free offer is just open for a few weeks - so why not look at it now? Click here to find out more, or read the FAQs about this project. If you've still got questions, contact Luke. The free wills are processed by Farewill, an award winning online will-making specialist with high ratings on TrustPilot. The free service wouldn't be suitable for more complex wills, but will suit most people. It can take as little as half an hour. Over to you!
The PCC spent a sunny Saturday morning (12/6) inside St. James' by the Park church building discussing several things, the main one of which was how to move forward with respect to the buildings.
We started, however, by reflecting on this discipleship shape tool to be used to help deepen our discipleship - give it a go if you want! We'll be using this more in the coming months as we continue our thinking about how we make and become disciples in our church and community.
It was quite exciting to finally think about buildings options moving forwards. The diagrams first shared at the Annual Meeting were very informative. Thank you to those who have commented on them. We looked at 5 different plans using the already allocated £5000 mentioned at the Annual Meeting from church funds.
We agreed to ask Studio 4 architects to draw up more detailed plans with a view to gaining planning permission for a two storey complete rebuild of the Parish Hall. Detailed plans of two options for some reconfiguring of the interior of St James' will also be worked up including consideration of extra room space at the back at ground level and improving site lines for any upstairs congregation. The combined changes to the church building and the new hall should provide the space and accommodation required for both midweek and Sunday activities. Part of this next process will include working out the potential cost of these works. The new hall would include office space and with this in mind, it is likely, but not decided, that 133 Church Street would be sold once work on new offices is completed. The future of the organ was also discussed but nothing decided - more work will be done on this before decisions are made.
The buildings development group are doing an amazing job for which PCC is most grateful. Please pray for this process, for the Lord's wisdom in the discussions & expenditure of time and money. Also for all of us to have patience to persevere and get this long project right for His glory.
On another topic close to our hearts: we were surprised and sad to hear that nobody has applied for the children's team leader post, a role we believe vital for our children and future young people. Please also ask God to show the leadership how to proceed so He can be glorified through how we bring up the next generation. That we make them strong & resilient in The Way of the One who supports us above, below, behind, before us and all around us!
To finish on a positive note, we are grateful that Steve Condell has been appointed as buildings maintenance manager.
On these topics and any others important to you, do feel free to have further discussions with any PCC member. We want to, wherever possible, be available and open with the whole congregation. Considering your views and learning how to "disagree well" can be one of the really important ways God guides & moves us forwards.
Thanks for reading and look forward to hearing from you.
Tara, on behalf of whole PCC