A sermon preached by Tom Leach at St Mary’s, Iffley, on 20th November 2022
On the 6th of November Andrew preached about the transition we are embarked on as a congregation, and the precious gift of hope.
This morning I want to take that spirit of hope expressed in Job and in St Paul’s letters, and see how it may influence what we do in the next few months. I want to refer to the powerful spirit of hope which we inherit as Christians.
As we set out on our own journey of transition let us remember the Israelites as they set out from Egypt on a journey which became so significant in their own history- remembered in each generation- and a major transition in their relationship with God, spiritually and psychologically as well as in a material and geographical sense.
Transitions are rarely comfortable. They involve loss. They may not be easy. But they can be times of growing understanding and awareness of ourselves and each other, of the value of our life together as a community and of the shared things we are trying to achieve.
This time of transition could be a time of growing personal and community awareness with opportunities to:
- Deepen our spiritual life in God
- Find new ways of committing to the life we can bring to each other
- Celebrate our common life inside and outside our beautiful church
- Forge new ways of working together
- Encourage and support those who wish to journey with us
Let me tell you a little more about the morning we have been planning for Sunday 11 December and how it fits in with other aspects of our transition in the next 6-9 months.
First: why a morning to look at our vision and values as a parish?
Looking back we have come through the most difficult of times for individuals and the parish as a community during the pandemic. The fears and inhibitions of this time are not over yet. Some are still trying to find their balance in the post-pandemic world. How can we support them in this process?
Looking forwards we need to plot a path through the changes in leadership in the parish, through developments in the wider diocese, in the Anglican church and in the wider political and social world. Our event on 11th December, will enable us to take stock of where we have arrived at and to draw strength from each other for the journey ahead.
What are the purposes of the morning? To share ideas about what each of us “treasures” about our life in the parish; the things we want to hang on to and sustain; the things we need to give more time to, or to repair, or the new work or directions we may need to consider. There are likely to be differences of opinion on these questions and it is important that our conversations are done in a careful and listening way with respect for each other. But sharing is not the limit of our aims for the morning. We hope that some consensus will be possible and a vision or visions begin to emerge, in the light of what God is saying to us, which will help us to begin the practical tasks of planning in the months to come.
So how will the morning work and what will happen? We hope that as many as possible of the regular worshipping congregation of St Mary’s Iffley will be able to join us in the Church Hall, after the morning service at 9am (rather than 10am as usual). Charles Chadwick, our Parish Development Adviser, has carried out several of these types of facilitated conversations in other parishes in Oxford Diocese. He will help us to structure the conversations in groups and gather the results together. We hope that families will be able to attend and we are asking teenagers to join the adults in the discussion groups. Liz Roberts is going to do some work on the main questions of the morning, with the Fish and Chip Club during the 9am service and they will feed back their views at the beginning of the workshop. Younger children will then be supervised upstairs by a rota of parents while discussions take place downstairs in the main hall. Particular thanks to Liz for setting this up and agreeing the rota with parents. We are keen that Liz herself is involved in the workshop discussions.
There will be a break for refreshments about half way through the workshop and we will draw the event to a close at 12.45pm so people can get home for lunch.
What will happen afterwards? The morning will provide a starting point for several follow up actions. First, we will produce a written summary of the points from the conversations at the workshop to be circulated to every member of the congregation, including those who cannot attend. Questionnaires will be sent to people who are not able to attend the workshop to ensure they are able to contribute. A small planning group will be formed to gather feedback from people and organisations in the wider community. The points from the workshop will be used in drawing up the Parish Profile which will be needed in the recruitment process for Andrew’s replacement. It is anticipated that this may take around six months after Andrew and Sarah’s departure, with the involvement of Diocese of Oxford.
What can you do next? We are welcoming as many of our congregation as possible to the workshop. We do need an idea of who is coming. So this is a request that if you would like to come you do add your name to the attendance list at the back of the church at the end of this service. If you don’t manage this today please do so before 11 December or speak to Andrew, Sarah Beaver or me.