In the February CTM News I wrote about an invitation the parish has received from Bishop Andrew to join in with a new mission initiative called Partnership for Missional Church (PMC). This offers us, over a 3 year period, a process for discerning where God is active in our parish and how we might change to be more actively aligned to God’s purposes for us.

At the start of March eight of us went to a PMC information evening to learn about what committing to the process might involve. We heard, from those who would be leading and teaching us, about the different strands of the process as we are asked to hold our planning and discernment alongside a deep commitment to seeking God in scripture and prayer. Those involved leading the PMC process locally will be asked to commit to meeting regularly, studying scripture, as well as planning the next practical steps. That way the people themselves are built up in faith as they in turn lead us as the church congregations. PMC is about changing our culture so that we become more intentional about our prayer, bible study and seeking of God.

At our PCC meeting in March Rachel, as PMC officer, came to talk to the PCC about the programme. I am delighted that the PCC overwhelmingly supported accepting the Bishop’s invitation. Now are we in a process of waiting for the PMC to start in September.

Before then I have been asked to look to pull together a group of people who, for the first year of PMC at least, will form the Steering Group, charged with overseeing the process in our parish. PMC insists that this group is lay people only, chaired by a lay person. The clergy are invited to be spiritual guides to the process, ensuring the group are nurtured in the right way. I am now turning my mind to who needs to be on the group.
I think it is clear that all three churches need to have equal representation on the steering group, in enough numbers to ensure that we can cope with any illness or absence. I would suggest therefore that up to 4 people per church are found. The type of people we are looking for are those who have an interest and passion for the church working in the world, and encouraging more people to come to faith. I know there are many in our churches who share this energy. Some of you, however, are put off by the traditional committee structure of our parish, and don’t want to commit to lots of meetings. PMC is not like that! The steering group will be a place of energy and vision undergirded by prayer. It will be well resourced, and the members will be invited 3 times a year to a teaching day, where the PMC parishes come together to be instructed by diocesan staff. There is no restriction on age or background. You can have been in church for a long time, or be very new. It would be great to have a young person involved.

Now we have made the commitment to join in, I would sincerely love to hear from anyone who is feeling that being part of PMC might be for you. Is God nudging you to turn you hopes and thoughts, about how our churches could be more outward looking, into action? Do come and talk to me if this is the case.

To help us understand more about the PMC process, I have asked Rachel to preach on this subject in each church in the coming weeks.


APCM 2015

Questions and comments from around the tables, with answers and comment from the Rector where appropriate.

Thank you to everyone who came to the Annual Parochial Church Meeting on Sunday 19 April at St John. Over 100 of us attended for a morning communion service, with the annual meeting inserted into it. We sat around tables to encourage conversation and heighten the feeling of being in relationship with one another. During our meeting I asked for the tables to consider three questions, outlined below.

I have attempted to give answers to direct questions, and offer comment where appropriate. The questions and comments from you below show the significant interest you have in the life of our churches, and the desire you have for them to grow in depth, in numbers attending and in their ability to reach out into our local community in mission. Thank you for this commitment. The challenge, as your Rector, is to ask you in return how that energy and vision might be harnessed so that we are all playing a role in moving our churches forward. In most of our churches too few people are undertaking too many tasks, and one of our key priorities will need to be to share the load so that each member has a ministry.

Is there one question you want to ask arising from this year’s annual report?

  • Youth involvement. More child centred. What happened to youth money?
  • Can next year include information about children’s work in the Parish and can we begin, as a Parish, to consider admission of children to communion?
  • Can we have a parish youth leader to help youth and music groups? Youth Club?
  • What is the parish vision for work with children and young people moving forward? How do we want to further include youngsters in the life of the parish?

Developing our work with children and young people seems to be a priority for a number of people. Someone asked from the floor of the meeting about employing a youth worker. You will also note under Q3 how many observations about where people hope the parish will be in 2020 suggest that we will have done more with children and young people.

I am very much up for leading this challenge. Ensuring young people are taken seriously in church, as full members of the church, is a challenge for us as for any church. But I would want us to ensure that, if we prioritise children and youth work, then the appropriate resources (financial and human) are devoted, and the children and young people themselves are placed at the heart of our church community. I don’t think we can any longer do work with young people as a way of occupying them and keeping them away from adults as they worship. So there may be a cost to us adults as we devote time, money and energy to nurturing the children and young people we have, and disciplining new young Christians.

In 2014 St Peter’s applied for a sum of money from Church House to be spent on youth work in the hope that previous work could be developed. Sadly this money remained unspent at the end of the year and was returned to Church House in fulfilment of their grant conditions. This was not for want of vision, but through lack of ability to spend the money because there was no obvious way of doing the youth work.

So some questions for us to think about…

Can we find a way to turn the desire for more young people, and good children’s and youth work, into the reality of people being prepared to lead and resource it? Without that it won’t happen. A paid youth worker shouldn’t be appointed to do all the work for us, but to co-ordinate the work that we do and train others how to resource it. Each of our churches has different issues developing our Sunday morning children’s work, and each could do with more leaders, yet when we ask very few people come forward!

  • How do we develop a well rounded children’s programme for Sunday mornings, that has enough leaders, well trained, and perhaps ensuring that the work across three churches is co-ordinated and not necessarily duplicated?
  • Do we have the resources and the right premises for good quality youth work, with a paid worker co-ordinating it? What would we need to do to ensure such a worker was appropriately supported?
  • How do we understand the needs of our youth and how we might meet them?

In terms of admission of children to communion, I would welcome us in due course exploring together whether this is an appropriate pastoral change. For those not aware of this practice, it is a nationally agreed policy to allow parishes to permit children who have not been confirmed to receive communion after suitable preparation. A consequence of this decision is normally that confirmation of children and young people is delayed until a later age, say 16. I am conscious that moving in this direction, for some, is a step too far as some people prefer the long held practice of confirmation of young people aged 10 or 11 upwards. I would want to consult widely and ensure we make the appropriate decision. The decision would need to be parish wide so that a consistent approach in all three churches is maintained.

  • How can we inspire people to want to be part of the decision making process of the church by joining the committees, rather than having vacancies?

In my experience people join in with activities when they understand what they are about, share the vision behind them, and are clear about what they are being asked to do. Simply asking for more help doesn’t seem to elicit many offers, and certainly people won’t join a committee if they are unclear what it does and what difference their membership on it will make. So I think we need as churches to be clear what our priorities are, what work we need people to help with (including specifying roles), and what we are trying to achieve.

  • Cafe – progressing but in need of more volunteers. Not necessarily from St John’s as not church based
  • Most of our volunteers for cafe are from St John’s – we would welcome help from other churches

I agree , the 3 C’s Cafe is one of our new success stories and in these early years we will need to work hard to promote it outside as well as to our own people. So how do we broaden the involvement? As I suggest in my previous answer, just asking for more help won’t work. Can we come up with a role description for cafe volunteers, which people can then see if they can commit to?

  • Thank you – the lift in church house

It’s good to receive thanks and I’m sure the Church House management group will be grateful to hear it. It leads on to the question how we all now promote this building as a more accessible resource for our community.

  • How do we handle safeguarding for adults?

The national church has done much more work in recent years encouraging every church to take seriously its responsibilities in safeguarding adults, particularly those deemed vulnerable. Our parish Safeguarding Officer, Peter Stratton, is working with me to ensure our policies and practices here conform to diocesan and national guidelines. We will be asking each church to do more work in this area in the coming months.

  • How are St Peter’s parade services organised?

St Peter’s parade services are arranged with me as Rector. At the moment 3 services a year are designated as Parade Services, when uniformed organisations attend and help lead the worship, in May, at Harvest, and early December for the annual Toy Service. There is an ongoing conversation with the uniformed organisations about their longer-term associations with St Peter’s, and how this might affect this pattern of services. I am not clear at the present that there is the desire from all the uniformed organisations to maintain the current pattern.

  • What are the future proposals for the management of our let properties?

We have been very fortunate for many years to have people in our churches who have volunteered to manage the properties the parish owns, which are both residential and commercial. Most recently it has been Tony Walker at St Peter’s who has undertaken this work, which has involved huge amounts of work every week ensuring tenants have a contact point and property issues are resolved in a timely manner. Tony has now stood down as Churchwarden and also decided it was time to hand over this property management role. We owe him a huge debt for this work. The PCC took a decision earlier this year that it would enquire whether there was anyone, or a group of people, who would take on this work, and requests were made in all three churches. This resulted in no offers. The PCC therefore had to consider an alternative plan, and we have signed a contract with one of the local estate agents to provide us with a property management service and to be the first port of call for tenants. This service obviously comes at some cost, but the PCC considers this the most viable long-term solution to ensuring our property is managed in the right way.

  • What about St John’s roof?

St John’s roof remains on. The recent quinquennial inspection of the church has raised a query about the timeframe within which the repairs are needed. Previously we were advised that the work needed doing in the last 5 years. The church had been unable to progress that work. In the light of this new advice, St John’s CLT are now clarifying with our architect the works needed and when they are needed to ensure it remains in good working order for the next few years. We are aware however than sometime in the next 10 years or so major repairs will be needed. The PCC will have to consider how it prioritises such a major repair.

  • Who is our CLT?
  • Who are the members of the 3 CLTs? And who are on the appointing body?
  • CLTs. Put CLTs on website and on boards at back of churches. Report to PCC

This is not perhaps the place to list all CLT members, but the point here is that it would help if each church clearly displayed who is on the CLT, and also displayed the work of the CLT and decisions it makes. I will ensure this takes place. There is a body in each church called the CLT Appointing Body which comprises of the Rector, ordained ministers of the church, and Churchwardens who look to appoint one or more other people to the CLT. Any appointments strictly run from one APCM to another, but in practice so far vacancies have been filled whenever they occur and the decisions made are communicated to the next APCM.

  • Why do we not have one parish pew sheet instead of three?

A good question! I have asked the same question and I know you are not alone in asking it. I can see real merit in time in us moving towards a common format of pew sheet that allows for local customisation. Many of the notices we have apply to all three churches, and it would also be good for each church to see the pattern of worship across the parish. I would also like us to think through how these pew sheets help feed our prayer lives between Sundays. A common pew sheet would therefore, in my view, help us to feel more connected as a parish. That said, I am conscious that the format of the sheets is something that has evolved over the years and to some the format and content is quite precious. If I hear back from many that there is a desire to change the format to create something more common across the churches, we can certainly look at doing that.

What highlight in our church and parish life in 2014/15 do you want to tell others?

I will not comment on each of these observations. But in summary it is very good to note what God is doing in our churches and parish already. We are good at taking some risks and starting new ventures. Many of you seem to value those attempts to look beyond ourselves. We are also good at building up the body of the church here in this parish through social events – people who worship together also need to learn to have fun together! I note some of you have commented on the place of our small groups or house groups. We do need to think together how the faith of each person is nurtured outside of Sunday worship, so that we might be confident Christians in the world. To me, house groups are a vital part of this and I would love to increase the number and breadth of the groups so that most people were part of one.

  • Coffee at Mary Claire’s. Prayer corner. Choir. Social occasions. Small groups. Pastoral care and general care for others. Exploring how to improve worship through moving pews and improving heating
  • Groups. Christmas carol outreach service. Easter dawn service. Summer fete – more outreach. More info about church and activities. Mike to do a welcome before raffle and prizes
  • Month of December was peak of meeting the public – 2000+. Streaming by computer must be extended – other than Sundays; Good Friday? Christingle? Midnight mass?
  • Carol service
  • Streaming is good
  • Fete. RMVC concert. Burns night. Cafe. Once upon a tree. Nativity Live. Daybreak service on Easter Day
  • Community garden and cafe
  • Dawn service. Barn dance. Burns night. 3Cs. CH lift
  • Churches getting together. Services & fete
  • Once upon a tree. Joint services. Cafe. Garden and community upkeep of grounds. Sunday Club and their presentations at services. Requiem (Guests)
  • We have kept going with the help of God
  • Coffee shop opened, lots of young families came
  • St Peter’s – opening the church during Easter (at same time as egg hunt in Caversham Court). 200+ came to St Peter’s
  • House groups – could do with more
  • Poster campaigns. Mike’s direction. Greater integration of 3 churches
  • New Rector!
  • Live shows, trips and the tea shop
  • Barn dance. Concerts. Quiz. 3Cs cafe – maybe consider different days occasionally. Children’s Holiday Club – CTC. Possibility of trips out in the future – Guildford? Taize? Iona?

What do you want the local paper to be saying about us in 2020?

Thank you for these comments about where you think our churches might be in 5 years time. Each one could draw us into a long conversation, which I will resist here. But I do think the PCC and CLT’s need to reflect on what you have said and see how these comments affect our plans over the next 5 years.

In summary I think many of you share my vision, and that of your clergy, PCC and CLT’s, that we can have an exciting future under God if we are prepared to take some risks, sometimes getting things wrong, but always working to look beyond our existing patterns of worship and modes of operating to see where the opportunities are for being church here in the future. I am very glad therefore the PCC have agreed to be part of the Partnership for Missional Church pilot, alongside other parishes in this Archdeaconry. This pilot will give us the space to discern our strengths and opportunities and make some choices about what work to pursue, and perhaps what work needs to end.

The vision, as one of you has put it below, is to have “Churches buzzing and occupied. Reaching out into the community especially young people. House groups meeting to learn and pray together”. In other words, our churches fully alive to God at work in them and in our community, with Christians confident of their faith ready and willing to live Gospel centred lives each day of the week. Alleluia!

  • We are STILL HERE! We are attracting a younger congregation. A caring proactive church
  • Greater involvement in Reading Festival. Outreach to the elderly
  • Magna Carta. School. Streaming. Music
  • Streaming. Amersham Road Cooking Club. Mike Smith is a good leader with lots of potential
  • Churches buzzing and occupied. Reaching out into the community esp young people. House groups meeting to learn and pray together. St Margaret’s heated. Support REInspired
  • Inclusion, youth involvement, family activities
  • That we have a new roof!!! Encouraged youngsters and their parents eg. to ???? events – start up youth clubs/activities
  • Encourage youngsters and their parents eg. football club
  • All 3 churches grown in numbers and spirit and influence (community initiatives)
  • We have a promise of eternal life and life in abundance. Still thriving – well and alive + support Christians worldwide
  • Publically building communications with community and bringing them to faith
  • Please go to St John’s you will be sure of a welcome
  • There are more Christians in Caversham because of us. Will there be a local paper….??
  • Open and welcoming and involved. Busy. Place for spiritual renewal and healing
  • A friendly welcoming parish and a place of spiritual renewal
  • We are a warm welcoming group
  • Support for people and families with dementia. Support for people and families with mental health problems/autism. Perhaps on a similar model to National Childbirth Trust (NTC groups)

Other comments not specifically attributed to any one question

  • Need for church fabric to improve heating!! Continuity of care for us has improved but not quite right yet

Getting our fabric right, including making churches warm, is vital if we want to encourage people to come to church. So I agree.

Continuity of care – I am sorry if the pattern isn’t quite right yet, and do make suggestions for how it could improved within the resources we have. I hope the decision I took early on to name me as the pastor of St Peter’s and St Margaret’s has been helpful. Having 3 churches with only 2 full-time clergy will always mean however that we have to share clergy. We cannot operate on the assumption that retired colleagues will always fill in the gaps. If more pastoral care is needed, then I am more than willing to help train some of you in how to do it. If more clergy are needed, then there is a vocational question for us to discern together. Who is being called by God to be ordained!

  • Reading Festival is an ideal venue to outreach to youth. Could have books. Ferrying youngsters to Caversham Court for our open air service with refreshments

The Reading Festival has been mentioned more than once. It is a great opportunity for us, but I suggest needs to be approached with other churches to ensure we have the resources. Again, I will ask the question so who will volunteer to do this?

  • Discussion: there are too many C of E churches in Caversham – close one? (and what about the Methodists)

Wow, there’s a radical thought! If we were starting from scratch with no churches in Caversham, we almost certainly wouldn’t build the number we have, or locate them where they are. But we are not in that place! That doesn’t however mean we can’t entertain conversations with church neighbours about the number of churches. I am also conscious that there have been previous conversations about amalgamations which didn’t result in anything, and getting the conversation wrong can lead to tensions between churches. My own view is that such radical changes are either borne out of urgent need to make changes (non viable congregations, or deteriorating buildings being two examples), or as the result of very close existing relationships between two or more churches. I don’t think any of our churches is in either of these situations today, and certainly none of our churches has got close to strong relationships with another church near it where taking a step to join together is the obvious way forward. So I cannot see in the short term that there will be any amalgamations. Finally, to be equally provocative back to the questioner, would you be in favour of your proposal if the closure was one of our 3 churches?