This Sunday is our delayed Annual Parochial Church Meeting (APCM). Like churches across the country (apart from a few super-keen ones who had already held theirs in early March!) we had to put our annual meeting on ice, just as we had to close the doors of our buildings and suspend much of our regular activity.
But since then we have managed to make some great progress in this brave new world! Despite things being more limited and feeling different, we have not only overcome the obstacles Covid-19 has flung at us, we have also taken the opportunity to do new things. In the initial weeks of the lockdown we moved our services online and increased our presence on social media. When churches were allowed to re-open we not only opened the doors, we also started an open table foodbank to serve those in need. Faced with a much bigger deficit than forecast, many people have responded with great generosity – either in one-off amounts, or by increasing their planned giving. We have brought the choir back, we are looking for ways to reconnect our men’s group, we have begun two Bible study groups and a stall at the Local Produce Market. Thank you to everyone who has contributed in so many ways over the last 6 months.
The APCM is a time of looking back. We hear reports on what has happened, usually over the last year, but this time over the last 18 months. But it is also a time to look forward. It’s a time for reflection and re-focussing as well as for reporting. Last Autumn we had a process of looking at what being called ‘All Saints’ means and a review of our Mission Action Plan. The pandemic has impacted on all the things we wanted to take forward. The enquirers course moved online, the All Age Eucharist started well but was then put on hold, and we have not started a café church. We began finding more ways to pray for growth but rightly our prayers have had a different focus, and we have made less progress in taking forward the reordering of the church building.
But now is a time to look ahead again, ‘forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead’ (Philippians 3.13). What will our plans be now in a Covid-19 world? We recognised that we needed to better welcome and nurture new people and to engage more with children and families, that we needed to commit this to prayer and develop our building to support this. How might we meet those needs now? Despite a changed world we have already shown that we can not only adapt but also be creative. How do we take our vision forward?
To that end I am inviting everyone to a ‘virtual parish lunch’ and Mission Action Plan (MAP) discussion at 12noon on Sunday 1st November, All Saints day. Get yourself sat down with something to eat and something to toast each other with (some fizz perhaps, it is our patronal festival!). I will then welcome everyone and give a short talk reminding us about our MAP and the vision that underpins this. We’ll then have small group discussion of ideas for growing in prayer, service, generosity and numbers in ‘break out rooms’ before coming back together to feedback. I will then take all this away to reflect on with the PCC, so that we can decide what to take forward on an updated MAP.
I know many of us are not huge fans of Zoom, but I would like to encourage you to put this in your diaries and take part. It is an opportunity to reflect together on the way forward. At the APCM we will hear about what was achieved in 2019, and how we have responded so far to Coronavirus in 2020. This is an opportunity for us all to offer answers to the question ‘what next?’ God speaks through his Church, not just through clergy and PCCs! So, come and share your ideas, you never know what might turn out to be a word from God:
Thus says the Lord:
I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions. (Joel 2.28)
With my love and prayers for you,
All Saints Vicarage,
Thursday 8th October 2020
This week at All Saints:
9.30am Family Eucharist also live-streamed via the website and available afterwards via the website and YouTube