A message from Rev John Rainer, Vicar of St Peter’s
As we put our clocks back an hour this weekend, we are very aware that the winter ahead of us may be one of the most challenging we have faced for some years. Apart from the obvious difficulties posed by cold weather and limited hours of daylight, the political and economic situation in the country and around the world does not look very positive.
In the midst of all this, we have rightly been reminding ourselves that our God does not change, that His victory over sin and death in Jesus Christ has not altered in the least, and that ultimately our protection and safety lie in his hands. What is happening in the world and in our lives is not a surprise to the Lord of history.
Our mission statement at St Peter’s while I have been Vicar speaks about ‘Following Jesus, making disciples and serving others’. Although there has been a lot of change in the church in recent years, I have never seen a reason to alter this statement of intent, and I don’t see one now. We are challenged to be like Jesus and to lead others into a relationship with Him, often doing so by serving others as a starting point. This is why we have put a lot of effort into restarting activities like See and Know, Active Seniors, Refresh, and Messy Church following the pandemic, and why we are now developing Warm Spaces on Fridays over the winter, to try and help meet the increasing needs we see around us in our community this winter.
As I have overseen the launching or re-launching of these activities, I have become aware that the leaders of all of them, whilst very energetic and motivated, are facing particular stresses in terms of finding the right assistance and support. What they are providing is badly needed and frequently much appreciated by those who come, but it has a cost in terms of time, energy and commitment. When illness and emergency comes along there is often a question of whether anything can run at all. Some of those involved in these activities can end up feeling as though they can never take any time off, for fear vital activities can’t happen without them. So I would like all of us to think about our response to this in terms of maintaining our church in its mission to follow Jesus, make disciples and serve others.
We probably all agree that prayer for outreach and missional activity is essential and that we should be doing it – and many of us are trying! Some of us struggle to give it the priority it deserves. One suggestion I can make is that we start tuning in to the online Morning Prayer sessions offered three times a week on Facebook. Led by a group of volunteers from the staff team and others, these take place live at 9am (roughly – sometimes earlier!) on Monday, Wednesday and Friday but can be accessed and played back whenever it suits you. You don’t have to be available when they go out live! Getting into the habit of more of us praying regularly every day – even if virtually and at slightly different times! – could make a huge difference in our being able to bring in the Kingdom of God by serving others in our community at this time. (God can cope with technology – and without!)
Some of us rule ourselves out of helping some groups on the grounds that we just can’t fit the time in.
I would stress that it isn’t always necessary to be at sessions to help out practically! Groups such as Active Seniors, Youthie and Messy Church would welcome help before or after their sessions, as well as during them. See and Know on Friday mornings and Messy Church once a month on Sundays are asking for help with jobs like. setting up, serving tea and coffee and clearing up after sessions. Warm Spaces would welcome help with setting up before the 10.30am start on Fridays, helping serve tea and coffee, coming along to just chat and befriend people for whatever time you can spare, as well as with washing up and setting down for an hour at the end, from 2pm on Friday afternoons.
You don’t need to be there every week or for the whole session for any of these activities – the more people willing to do whatever they can, the less pressure there is on everyone! You do not necessarily need to have particular skills and expertise with children or adults or in any of the practical tasks in these sessions either – we would really welcome some volunteers with administrative skills who could help support the organisation of teams of volunteers and do some chasing up between sessions.
Could you do something like that?
The story of Martha and Mary (Luke 10.38-42) reminds us that as Jesus and his disciples went about ministry, there was a considerable operation going on behind the scenes to feed them, look after them and to keep the show on the road. Jesus’ reaction to Martha does not indicate that he regarded such behind the scenes activity as second-rate : (just the opposite in fact – the way he repeats Martha’s name is, in Jewish culture, a mark of special affectionate endearment). There is indeed a time for us to stop and listen to God, but also a time to work, and we too must remember to recognise and affirm those whose work, whilst unseen, is essential in keeping the show on the road.
You will be aware by now that Rachel will be leaving us at the end of November after five years as Children’s and Youth Worker. Rachel has done some fantastic work among our children, young people and families over her time here, not least doing an amazing job of keeping things going during the pandemic. There will be an opportunity to show our appreciation and to say goodbye at our services on 27th November and contributions to a leaving gift for Rachel can be made via the Office or the card machine in church.
Rachel’s departure is a further heads-up to everyone that we will need help both behind the scenes and up front in the coming months to resource the groups she has been leading. Some of this help will be administrative and won’t require skills with young people, but will involve support for existing volunteers. Is this something you could do?
Times are tough just now, but our God is far greater. Many of us know this prayer, said to originate with St Ignatius of Loyola. Let us use it this winter as we seek to follow our Lord.
With love and Prayers
teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve You as You deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and not to ask for reward
save that of knowing I am doing Your Will.