In this newsletter:
- Developments at St John’s – a new partnership
- St John’s Day Celebrations
- Judith’s Ordination at The Minster and St Peter’s Day
- Holiday Club – 31st July-4th August
Developments at St John’s – a new partnership
When I arrived at St John’s people regularly mentioned to me that lots of Christians who live nearby cross the bridges every Sunday to worship at Greyfriars, and could we do something to encourage them to come to us instead? Over the past few months Mike and I have had a number of conversations with David Walker, vicar of Greyfriars, about whether we could invite a team from Greyfriars to join us at St John’s to strengthen and renew the church in our community. Five years ago Rev Pads Dolphin took a team from Greyfriars to strengthen St Matthews Southcote, and we have been exploring whether we could do something similar at St John’s. David has a vision for Greyfriars to become a ‘resource church’ which blesses and strengthens smaller local churches like St John’s, and he has been enthusiastic about partnering with us to revitalise St John’s.
In March we met with Bishop Andrew, and Bishop Ric Thorpe, who has a national remit for encouraging church growth in situations like ours. Bishop’s Ric’s advice based on years of experience was that we should, “Honour the past, navigate change in the present, and build for the future.” Honouring the past often means maintaining an existing service but growing something new alongside it. So, at St John’s we could continue with our traditional 9.30am service, but perhaps begin a more informal contemporary service alongside it, either later in the morning or in the afternoon or evening. We don’t yet know what a new service might look like, and those joining us from Greyfriars would join in the discernment process as together we seek God’s ‘preferred and promised future’ for St John’s.
The proposal to invite a team from Greyfriars to join us at St John’s was discussed at the St John’s Forum in May and had the overwhelming support of the St John’s congregation, with thirteen of the fourteen discussion groups answering ‘yes’ to the question, “Do you sense God’s leading in this?” (and one saying, “Don’t know.”) The proposal was taken to the CTM PCC meeting on 24th May, and following a good discussion was formally approved. Greyfriars PCC responded positively to the invitation, and David Walker invited me to attend all three services at Greyfriars on 9th July to share our vision for St John’s and to encourage people to consider prayerfully whether God might be calling them to be part of it. Anyone even remotely interested will be invited to sign up for email updates and encouraged to come and hear more at St John’s at 4pm on Sunday 16th July, when there will be a chance to hear the vision in more depth, ask questions, and pray together. This will be followed by several weeks of prayer, small group meetings, 1:1 conversations, and social events at St John’s as Greyfriars folk try to discern whether God is calling them. Those who sense the call to come will be asked to commit by December, with a view to a team being commissioned from Greyfriars and a new service ‘launched’, with lots of publicity in our community, in January 2018.
Please do be praying for this partnership, particularly for those who will be discerning God’s call. It’s never easy to leave a church family, particularly a thriving, well-resourced one. Greyfriars has superb children’s and youth work, thriving small groups and vibrant Sunday worship. Our prayer is that St John’s will also grow and thrive, but that will take time, and it will not become a Greyfriars ‘clone’. Greyfriars is a ‘gathered’ church, to which people are drawn from all over Reading and beyond. St John’s is a community church, and our missional focus is the community that live around us – we long to become a flourishing, life-giving church that takes God’s love out into our community as we serve, pray and worship here. Those here now and those who come will be used to different styles of worship, and we will need humility and grace as we learn from each other. I sense we will need to recruit a worship leader who can lead contemporary worship, and a children’s worker who can nurture and grow our children’s ministry. How this might be resourced is not yet clear – please pray!
For those coming from Greyfriars, for the current St John’s congregation, and for our parish as a whole, in PMC terms this is an “adaptive challenge” – in other words, a challenge that will cause us all to change. We don’t know who, or how many, will discern the call to come, but we trust that some will. We don’t know exactly how St John’s will grow and develop, but we trust that God will show us, and help us navigate the changes we will need to make in order to become the church he is calling us to be. We don’t know where God is leading, but we do sense that his hand is on the journey so far, and can trust that he will take us where he wants us to go if we are open, prayerful and courageous enough to follow him.
Though our destination is not yet clear,
May we trust in your graceful promises;
Though we are uncertain of ourselves,
May we be rooted in your loving regard;
Though our attention is inclined to wander,
May we hear the things you are saying;
Though we often neglect your influence,
May we be convicted of your power to change,
In Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
St John’s Day Celebrations
This year our aim was to make St John’s Day celebration for the whole community, with food and fun alongside an outdoor Songs of Praise. We sensed God was in the idea, as volunteers came forward surprisingly quickly – within a week we had a BBQ team, cake bakers and refreshments servers, musicians and plenty of ideas for games and craft activities, and involvement from community groups. In addition to St John’s volunteers, friends from other churches helped, and flyers were delivered to all our local schools, nurseries, and playgroups, and over a thousand invites went to our neighbours in surrounding streets. We even knocked the doors of houses on St John’s Road as it was a St John’s Day party and we thought St John’s Road residents should have a personal invitation!
There was a great team spirit as we set up on the day, gazebos, events shelters, bunting, café style seating outside. By 4pm the appetising aroma of sizzling sausages and burgers was wafting down Gosbrook Road, and the sound of live ceilidh music from Seonaid’s violin was reverberating down St John’s Road! Children were soon playing outdoor games, having their faces painted, doing jigsaw puzzles, playing with playdough, or making St John’s Day flags and streamers. Adults were trying to work out who the ‘Famous John’s’ were in a picture quiz while enjoying tea, cakes and burgers. Sandra Gough had an active group of youngsters exploring the community garden, and lots of people just enjoyed chatting and making new friends.
Just as we were about to go outside for the Songs of Praise it began to rain, so we sang inside instead, with Jane Robson playing keyboard. We sang a mix of traditional hymns and contemporary songs, including two children’s songs with actions. It felt poignant to sing, “He’s higher than a skyscraper”, and we prayed for those affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy, and hung heart-prayers on a prayer tree. We sang “Love divine all loves excelling” and prayed for happy marriages and happy homes in our community. Pat Jones talked about the Caversham Community Quilt that was on display, and we prayed for our community, especially for the lonely and isolated. And we sang “Shine Jesus Shine” praying that Jesus would shine on us and on our community. Children waved their flags and danced to the music, and we perhaps caught a glimpse of what a ‘café church’ could look like in the future.
Songs of Praise was followed by a doughnut eating competition – doughnuts hanging from string on a washing line, no hands allowed. Guess who won?
Many thanks to everyone who contributed to a fantastic community event which was much enjoyed by all who came. To God be the Glory!
Judith’s Ordination at The Minster and St Peter’s Day
Judith was ordained priest by Bishop Andrew on Saturday 24th June at Reading Minster. She presided for the first time at St Peter’s at our St Peter’s Day united service on Sunday 25th June, and we celebrated together with a lavish lunch in the Rectory Garden – many thanks to Janice Walker and her team for organising the lunch.
Judith writes, “I would like to thank everyone for their welcome, prayers and support, and for the home communion set I received from the parish as my ordination gift. I look forward to serving the parish in my new ministry.”
Holiday Club – 31st July-4th August
The annual CTC Holiday Club returns this year from 31st July to 4th August. It is being held at St Anne’s Primary School. This year we return to the land of Ancora as ‘Treasure Seekers’. Please pray for all the children attending and the helpers who will be working together to make this a great week for all concerned, a real experience of Christian community.
If you could donate any “shiny paper/anything shiny that can be used as decoration, fabric scraps/ribbon/braiding, wallpaper, clean margarine tubs with lids, clean Muller Light pots or similarly shaped yoghurt pots” please contact Jane Borgeaud through the Parish Office to arrange delivery/collection.
Other newsletters are in the newsletter archive