New Rector for the Parish – Rev Mike Smith

Mike SmithIt is a great joy to be writing my first contribution to CTM news, after the announcement that I have been asked to become your new Rector. Since the invitation from the Bishop and interview panel, it has become more and more clear that the Parish of Caversham Thameside and Mapledurham is right for the next stage of my ministry and the place where God is calling me.

I hope this article will allow me to introduce myself and my family and explain when we will be arriving.

I have been ordained for 18 years, and have served all my parochial ministry in the Diocese of Manchester, as a curate and incumbent, working in urban and suburban settings. For the last 8 years I have had the privilege of being the Policy Adviser and Chaplain to the Bishop of Leicester. This full-time role has provided me with a wide ranging focus for ministry, preparing and assisting the Diocesan Bishop in all his duties, including his diocesan leadership and national church and political responsibilities. I have worked closely alongside the two Bishops, the Archdeacons, the Cathedral Dean, Diocesan Secretary and other colleagues as a member of the Bishop’s senior leadership team.

I am married to Rachel and we have two young boys aged 6 and 3. Rachel is also ordained and has been the incumbent of the parish of All Saints Loughborough in the Diocese of Leicester for the last 6 years. This is a large town centre parish, with a significant ministry to the civic life of the town, alongside its normal parochial responsibilities. As we move the family, Rachel will at first spend a time focussing on settling our boys into their new home and school, and helping us adjust as a family to life in Berkshire. In due course we anticipate that Rachel will discuss with Bishop Andrew a return to paid ministry of some kind.

In hearing the call of God to come and join you, I have been struck by the openness you have towards one another and to those in your parish. Your have a broad and inclusive outlook – symbolised by your three values of Inclusive, Generous and Life-giving – and I look forward enormously to discovering more of how those values might help us together to reach out beyond our natural boundaries to live confident, faith-full lives.

I am conscious you have been without an incumbent for some time now, and the weight of the responsibility for the day to day running of the parish has fallen on the other clergy, churchwardens and other officers and staff of the parish. I know from my current role how eagerly a parish can wait for the arrival of its new incumbent, once the announcement has been made. Unfortunately, like most clergy, I have to work out my 3 months notice, which I will follow with a little study time to do some reading and preparation for joining you.

Our family will therefore not be moving into the Rectory until the end of February, and my licensing has been booked for Sunday 16 March at 3.30pm. This is a Sunday afternoon service when I hope people from the parish and deanery will join together with Bishop Andrew and our friends and family, including a number from Leicestershire, to celebrate this beginning of our journey together.

I am so looking forward to being with you. Please do remember us in your prayers as we prepare to join you, as we are remembering you before God.

Mike Smith

News about Church House Grants

The Misses Haslam gave Church House to the Parish of Caversham in 1943 to support the work of the Church of England. It generates a significant income each year. After careful management, the Church House Team made £19,000 available to the Grants Team for distribution this year. Any money not spent will be carried forward to next year.

We were therefore able to support REInspired with £5,500 towards the costs of their work, enabling volunteers to deliver high quality RE lessons in our schools, based on the Christianity elements of the locally agreed syllabus for RE. A further £5,500 was given to support clergy retreats and training, and Fresh Expressions work, including the Amersham Road cooking club. Fresh Expressions are a form of outreach to the community to establish Churches in a new way for people who don’t do church.

£3,500 was earmarked for the musical development of young people at St Peter’s and £6,063 was awarded to St John’s to pay for an upgrade to the toilet to provide a facility for baby changing and people with disabilities. This work has been necessary to enable to establishment of the 3Cs, Caversham Community Café in the south aisle of the church. The café project has been fully funded separately by Reading Springboard, the Big Lottery Fund, All Churches Trust and an anonymous donor.

All this should give us cause to celebrate the generosity of the Misses Haslam, their vision and the vision of the leaders of the projects that we have been able to help this year. There will be more money to distribute next year. Whilst some of the projects are ongoing, others are not. As a consequence the Grants Team can consider applications for project funding in 2014. Who knows what the projects will be? You do! You have a vision for a project, think it through and work out what you need in terms of money. Then you get a Grant Application form from the parish website, fill it in and send it in. The Grants Team will consider your application in the light of the terms of the bequest and let you know.

Richard Purkis, Grants Team Chair

Reflection on waiting for Advent

Preparations for Christmas seem to begin earlier every year. The catalogues for gifts arrive at the end of summer. You can book your Christmas party in the middle of September. As the trees lose their leaves, shops add tinsel and glitter to entice you in. Long before December 25th people are already caught up in a frenzy of Christmas anticipation and buying.

So what has happened to Advent? Is it, as someone wrote, a Cinderella season, a poor relation, unnoticed, pushed to the periphery of things? All too often the message of Advent is drowned under the tidal wave of shopping and parties and the razzmatazz that floods these December days. To miss out on the treasures of this wonderful season is a great spiritual loss.

Is it because we find waiting so intolerable, so unacceptable in present day society that we brush Advent aside? Because this is the season that celebrates waiting, that draws us into a way of waiting, that nourishes and fills our hearts with peace. This is no impatient or, worse still, listless watching the clock waiting, but an expectant, full of hope involvement in the reality of Christ’s coming. We touch into the real meaning of life.

The liturgy of Advent helps us to open our hearts to the great mystery of God becoming human, of God’s incredible humanity and love in the manger in Bethlehem. The wonder of it, the depth of it, the promise of the ages fulfilled – for us today. Look again! Advent is a time to step out from your busy life to wait with Mary, to share in her wonder at this great event the coming of the Christ child in our midst.

But Advent also puts before us his second coming at the end of time when the Kingdom of God will be visible to all. This can be a shock, as we do not want to think of the last days, the final end of things. But, ‘Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come’ (Matthew 24:42, first Sunday in Advent). ‘Christ will come again,’ we sing at the Eucharist, and then his glory will be revealed. It is a message of joy for all who believe.

Hope is the great gift and the fruit of Advent. When we reflect on the unseen realities lying beneath the surface of life a great longing for God stirs in us. When we open ourselves to the firm yet gentle discipline of Advent our hope deepens enabling us more readily to reach out and help others on the way. ‘Come, Lord Jesus, come!’

Reverend Marion Pyke

Other editions of this newsletter can be found at the archive page