After years of praying and planning, today we handed over the keys to St John's to its new owners: the Church of Pentecost UK. We gathered some people who were part of former congregations at St John's with some of the future congregation. Together, we thanked God for his faithfulness and prayed for each other's churches.
There's so much to be thankful for, and we're so excited to see how God will continue to meet with people at St John's, and how Church of Pentecost UK will grow God's kingdom in this area.
Nichola Caveney writes ...
Bible and Prayer
The meeting opened with Georgia leading us in a period of reflection-thinking about what it means to be a courageous church.
We read Joshua 1:1-9. ‘Be strong and courageous’ is mentioned 3 times. We have the promise of God that He will be with us. We can be strong in the strength of the Lord, not in our own power.
We listened to ‘I will Fear No More’ by The Afters and this was then followed by a short time of prayer.
What 3 words?
We talked about the proposed 3 words which we have discerned as mindsets that God wants us to focus on in the coming years:
The PCC talked about the best way of presenting information about what we believe, what we should be, what we do and what we strive to become. We looked at several different visual interpretations and agreed that more work was needed!
Following on from the last PCC meeting, we looked at another draft of a proposed vision for the church. We spent time in groups discussing specific wording, but as there were a large number of PCC absences this month, it was decided to continue the discussion in September’s meeting.
We discussed what activities need to be signposted to the Parish Safeguarding Dashboard (any activity endorsed by the church organised primarily for children, young people or vulnerable adults).
The PCC has asked for clarification on privacy in the Recruitment of Ex-Offenders Policy which was produced in accord with the Church of England practice guidance on safer recruitment.
Feedback was given by Laura who is part of a recently formed group to identify what we can do even better to help this age group engage with church more. The group have suggested an anonymous survey for anyone in the church/community to complete (in all age groups) so the group can find out exactly what is needed.
Pattern of Services
Following the brief presentation Dan did last month, we had the chance to feed back any comments and suggestions about the next steps. Some key points of discussion were:
• Any changes need to be sustainable
• We shouldn’t be scared of not being able to please everyone
• Ideally, we need to make decisions early in the autumn term, ready to be put into place at the start of 2023.
• We should continue to canvas opinion from other members of the congregation (including those outside our immediate circle of friends)
The meeting closed with a time of prayer and reflection.
As part of our series on spiritual gifts, Dan spoke about the gifts of tongues and prophecy last Sunday from 1 Corinthians 14. If you weren't able to make it or tune in, you can watch it below.
After the sermon, Dan encouraged people to pray quietly for a few minutes, asking God for a verse or word or picture that might be for someone else. Here is what was shared. These will all need to be weighed, to test if they are from God or not:
If one of these speaks to you, let us know - it can be a huge encouragement to know that we've heard correctly from God and that it's been of real benefit to someone else!
Tracy King writes ...
Jacqui started us by encouraging us to think about discipleship and our own responsibility for our spiritual growth. Do we really want to grow? We then brainstormed the ways our own faith grew and deepened. We included-relationships, accountability, books, inspirational speakers, small groups, podcasts, Christian camps, prayer partners…
Paul used previous data to introduce the idea of our values being Courage, Passion and Expectancy. The discussion then included opinions on the words but mainly on how they would be used. A quick poll was taken by Dan on how we felt about the words and Paul is now going to do some more work with Dan and the new information to try and move the ideas forward for the next PCC meeting.
We also looked at the vision for our church; the Church of England’s 2020 vision statement is very helpful and fits St. James’ well. We fed back our thoughts on this vision statement. Dan will use the feedback to refine our statement to better reflect our own vision. We will discuss it again at the next PCC meeting.
The diocese is carrying out a Safeguarding update/review and at this first stage we have done well. The PCC noted their huge thanks to the safeguarding team.
We agreed terms of reference for 4 of the PCC sub committees; there will be more to come.
David Phillips had sent through draft accounts for us to look at. Things are stable at the moment which is good. However, Dan acknowledged this situation may change.
We then began to think about the pattern of our services as we continue to emerge out of the pandemic and into a new phase. Dan, very helpfully, put a number of issues on large ‘jigsaw pieces’ and we engaged with how some seemed to contradict others. The challenge will be how can they all fit together to form a complete jigsaw.
The issues Dan had identified were;
In March some of us who are associated with St James by the Park met to discuss how we can play a positive part in receiving Ukrainian refugees. We have set up a hosting group called UK2UK. This is for those who are able to host Ukrainian refugees. We called it UK2UK as we recognise that Ukrainians can be a blessing to people in the UK and people in the UK can be a blessing to Ukrainians. There is always giving and receiving between both groups.
There are a number of people in the church who have volunteered to be hosts for refugees from Ukraine. Hosting requires people receiving training to understand many aspects of receiving Ukrainian refugees, understanding various government procedures, ensuring safeguarding matters, house inspection and helping Ukrainians navigate schooling, health and benefits systems. Hosting also involved matching themselves as hosts with Ukrainians who are exploring whether to come to the UK. These conversations often require an interpreter or are conducted in limited English. Refugees initially have to discern which country would best fit their family requirements. Hosts within the church have followed up various contacts via charities, friends and social media websites but most so far have not led to people coming to UK. Our UK immigration system has not been very helpful but it is improving now. It is likely that there will be more refugees coming over the following months to the UK. In Southampton a local Ukrainian told me there are now about 70 families that have come recently to the UK. It is estimated that in the Test Valley there are about a 1000 Ukrainian refugees. Southampton Council have been very positive and helpful.
Hosts Lindsey and Kevin have now received members of a Ukrainian family. They wrote on May 11th:
“Yesterday, with a mix of anxiety and anticipation, we met our guests at Southampton Parkway railway station (it's a great choice of station as you can go right onto the platform to help them with their luggage). Even though we have only 'met' once via video chat we felt like we were meeting friends. We are hosting a lovely mum and her two children. We are fortunate that our guests already have a ready made Ukrainian community in our neighbourhood and we have already had one lovely family visit our house. They have also been made very welcome at the local school. Please pray for us all as we go through a period of adjustment and for patience as we navigate all the bureaucracy and applications. Above all we pray that these lovely ladies and their children may be reunited with their husbands and fathers who have had to stay behind in Ukraine. They clearly love their country, and whilst they are appreciative of what we are doing, they long to go home.”
Some people at St James have also said they would like to support families that come to the UK but for whatever reason cannot host them. Helen and I have started a list of those who want to be host supporters. Such people will link with specific hosts and offer friendship, time, meals and a welcome to particular families. If you think you can do this then do contact Helen or Paul Thaxter via the parish office at email@example.com
Wider church welcome
Others in the church are willing to be offer more general support such as prayer, resources, and skills. Many of us may be able to be part of welcome events and activities. There is no expectation though that Ukrainian people will attend St James by the Park. We will not be mentioning Ukrainian peoples’ names in updates.
It is in these three concentric circles of host, host supporter and wider church welcome that we hope to make people feel at home in Southampton.
Tara has been encouraging people at the Sunday services to pray for Ukraine so do pray with this group if you can on Sundays. Also there are prayer resources available on multiple websites.
The news itself is a great stimulus to pray. Do also remember those who no longer appear on our headline screens but need our prayers and attention. There are about 50 major conflicts in the world and we seek peace and support for all those in violent conflict regions.
Here are a few prayer points
A prayer for Ukraine
Give comfort to those who suffer because of the violence. Give comfort to those who mourn their dead, and strength to neighbouring countries to welcome the refugees. Convert the hearts of those who resort to arms and protect those who work to promote peace.
God of hope, inspire leaders to choose peace instead of violence and to seek reconciliation with enemies. Inspire compassion in the universal Church for the Ukrainian people and give us hope for a future of peace based on justice for all.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace and Light of the world. Amen.