The Vicar writes...
HAVE YOU HEARD THE ONE about the atheist on a trekking holiday cornered by a large angry bear? I told the long version of this tale at the beginning of my report to the recent Annual Parochial meeting. The upshot is that in desperation the atheist prayed for the bear to be converted. Accordingly, the bear closed its eyes, bowed its head, and prayed: "For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful."
My report looked ahead to what we may be about to receive in the next twelve months. I identified four possibilities:
First, to build on the almost miraculous success of last year's Funding Programme.
In a difficult financial climate, we need to constantly reinforce our trust in God's providence, and encourage each other to see our giving as an expression of a confident faith.
At the right moment newcomers should be encouraged to join the Stewardship Scheme - for their own spiritual benefit, and to feel they 'belong'.
Also, all worshippers could do with an opportunity to regularly give thanks to God for his goodness and to reconsider our response in terms of giving to the church and to charity. I proposed that this be done as an extension of Harvest Thanksgiving each autumn. This received the unanimous support of the meeting.
Secondly, I should like us to further run counter to the prevailing economic gloom and launch another major appeal - this time to replace the seats in church.
The invitation could be to 'give a chair' - which might be in memory of someone whose name is commemorated on a discrete plaque attached to the chair.
We should go wide in consulting with all users of the church for concerts and so on about how best to meet everyone's seating needs, and also seek financial contributions from this wider constituency.
The existing chairs were second hand when brought into service at St James's more than 100 years ago. After all else that we have done to improve our facilities, its high time we did something to provide more suitable chairs that will both more inviting as well as enhance the beauty of the church building. This also received overwhelming support at the meeting.
Thirdly, we should fully participate in the evolving life of our Diocese.
This includes taking full advantage of facilities at the newly opened St Martin's House in the City and also the refurbished Launde Abbey. There are to be grand openings for both held ten days apart on the last weekend of May at Launde, and on 10 June at the Cathedral.
We must also engage in an exercise to envisage the future of church life in our deanery of Leicester - as every church will be doing in their various deaneries. This exercise is named '2020 Vision'. It looks ahead to the year 2020 and the effect of the numbers of clergy due to retire - including yours truly! - leading to a reduction of available full-time clergy.
Initial proposals would provide for St James's to continue having a Vicar, but paired with one of the Cathedral clergy to take care of all the city centre churches except Holy Trinity and the Cathedral itself.
There would be all sorts of implications if this were to be put into effect, one being a shift from the links that we have been recently encouraged by the Diocese to form with churches on the southern edge of the city in the Southern Edge Mission Partnership. It would seem that for every vision, there is an equal and opposite revision! But which scheme is being shaped by God?
Finally, there are implications for our church along with our neighbouring churches - in whichever direction we may look - of the government's emphasis on 'The Big Society'.
In particular there may be scope for volunteering through the churches to serve the needs of the local community. I would suggest that the expanding work of Action Homeless based in St James's Terrace, and helping to ensure the continuation and success of the Sure Start Family Centre around the corner on Mayfield Road should be our priorities.
With these among other possibilities for the time ahead, it's as well to remember that we Christians make God laugh when we tell him our plans. I am aware that I must never confuse my own plans with what ultimately matters in our life together as a church - the vision of God and his Kingdom.The Vicar writes … ST PAUL’S CATHEDRAL is open again – not closed until after Christmas, as some mischievous reports had speculated that it might be. Also, the protesters – rather than being evicted – seem to have been given leave to maintain their vigil until the New Year. Therefore a symbolic tension is to be maintained which will stimulate ongoing debate about the issues at stake. Politicians, church leaders and commentators are beginning to rise to the challenge. I’ll avoid airing my views at this stage – although I am alarmed at the widening gap between the vulgar wealth of some whilst many struggle to make ends meet that is a cause of very great social evil and unrest. There will be much for everyone to consider, and the opportunity for the Church of England to freshly engage with the state of the nation. In the meantime, I am troubled by the resignations of the Dean and the Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s – for different reasons. I was at theological college with Graeme Knowles. We both became cathedral precentors. But whereas I had an early bad experience of public vilification, his ministry has been blighted at this late stage and I feel very sorry for him. On the other hand, although I have not met Giles Fraser, I tend to identify with his stance on most of the issues he addresses – in Radio 4’s Thought for the Day, and in articles published in the Church Times and the secular press. His resignation was on a matter of clear principle. I hope that the Church of England will honour his brand of ‘Christianity with Attitude’ (the title of a book by him) and find a suitable position for him to exercise sway. 1 Re-arrange the furniture? Against the background of a crisis for the Church of England in relating to current big issues and sensitive to the accusation that the Church tends to be most concerned with its own internal matters, I am embarrassed that the big issue for us at St James the Greater at the present time is the proposal to change the chairs in church. We are in danger of being open to the charge of “re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic”. However, the process is already well underway for this latest stage in the renewal of our church’s facilities and fabric. A congregational survey has been carried out. Results of the survey are available to download from the Church’s website or in print on application to the Church Office. The way forward does not clearly emerge from the survey, nor does the Chairs Working Group have a unanimous view on the matter. Therefore it has been decided to hold an Extraordinary Parochial Meeting to hear arguments for and against the different options. The meeting will be open to all ‘stakeholders’ – including those who hire the church for concerts. This meeting is to be on Sunday 5 February to follow a slightly shortened Sung Eucharist at 11.45, ending no later than 12.45. Tricia hands over to Annabel Tricia Dean retired from being Church Administrator at the end of October. Tricia has been a superb Church Administrator for getting on for four years. We shall have the opportunity to thank her on Sunday, 27 November following the Advent Carol Service. Annabel Cowley was successful in being appointed (from among 47 applicants!) and has made a seamless transition, thanks to a careful handover by Tricia. We welcome Annabel and hope that she will be happy and fulfilled in this vital role. Please note that Office Hours are now 09.30 to 12.30. 2