Vicar's Letter March 2018

MARCH 2018

Dear Friends,


Most of us don't like change. Sometimes we know it's necessary, but find it unpleasant; sometimes we will be anxious that things should change because they are unsatisfactory as they are; but mostly we are contented to stay as we are. For the most part too, we prefer other people not to change either – however much we may complain about them! ‘Truly I tell you,' says Jesus, however, 'unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'  Most of the time, even when confronted by what Jesus says, we don't really want to change. I want us to look at change in our Church, our parish, our team, and within ourselves.


The Church of England has procedures in place for preventing change! Well, actually for monitoring change and making sure that change is right where and when it occurs. A parish has to obtain a “faculty” before work can start on any form of change. Sometimes it feels as though this is just to slow everything down.  It has taken months for us to get permission for the installation of a proper water supply to St. Cyr's. (Worth a brief mention here that in granting the faculty the Chancellor commented that the “statement of significance” that had been prepared for it was a text book example of how such a statement should be drafted – well done Richard!) But that will be a change that will be very welcome – it will be possible to wash up at the same time as someone else is washing their hands, possible to fill the kettle in less time than it takes to boil – though I expect we will be irritated by the upheaval of digging trenches to and across the churchyard.  Possible changes, of course, don't stop there. You will have seen the model on display whether in Church or in the Library, Co-Op or the town Hall, suggesting one possibility for opening up the building for fuller use by the community as well as by Church members. Some of you will react, wanting to see as little change as possible, such as a desire to retain more of the pews.  Others (like me!) will wonder whether it's right to do half a job, rather than going for a complete removal of the trip-hazard posed by the pew-standings, and the opening up of a much larger flexible space. I am convinced however that we need to look with great care at how we preserve an old building which sees so little use.




It was a big change as our new team of Churches was established, though so far we have witnessed remarkably little change. But sharing with 14 other churches is bound to bring questions about how we best use our resources to the glory of God. For the last several years, I have been very privileged only having to minister in one Church. None of the other Stroudwater Churches had a clergyman to themselves and considerably greater demands have long been made on the laity of those parishes. There have been fewer services too, at any of the other churches, though numbers attending have, on occasions, been as great as ours.  As we move forward as a team, we have to work out how best to use the clergy we have and to organise each parish in such a way as not to thrust excessive burdens on retired clergy or to claim exclusive rights to a particular priest. So, shock of shocks, St. Cyr's main service will have to come forward by all of 15 minutes!  And this will start immediately after Easter on 8th April. This will mean, for example, that when Steve our Team Rector takes the 9.30 service on 15th April he will have time to talk to you before dashing off to Standish for the 11.15 service there, and that I will be able to deal with queries after the 9.30 on the previous Sunday rather than disappearing during the last hymn to get to Eastington. The 8.00 a.m. service recently has never attracted very many participants and there are other churches in the team for which their 8.00 service is the only one on a Sunday. So Stonehouse will only retain 8.00 a.m. services on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of a month. I shall not be getting a lie-in however! There will be services on the other Sundays at 8.00 a.m. at Saul, Frampton, Kings Stanley and Selsley. It will be good if we can encourage people to think in terms of wanting to worship God at a Church in the team, rather than always in MY church! We will need, though, to help one another to get there, and to be prepared to ask if there is a particular need for transport or other assistance at an unfamiliar Church. I believe it is important for there to be public evening worship somewhere in the team; where and when has yet to be finalised, but I note that not many turn out to evening services at St.Cyr's.


It is bound to be the case that there will be many changes which we may or may not welcome in our lives. But Christian faith is based on a more fundamental change which happens right within us. Lent is a time, to use the traditional word, particularly for “repentance”.  That word does not mean being miserable!  It means changing; changing the direction we are going from towards the world, to towards God; changing from depending on ourselves, on our own strength, to depending on God; changing from being self-centred to being Christ-centred.  As Christians, we have to change, and we should be calling others to change too.  We will not be surprised to meet resistance to change, especially when the change is as big as “dying to Christ, that we may live his risen life,” but that is the change to which we are called by God and to which we call the rest of the world.  Each of us needs to recognise that the Church is not here for our benefit, but that we are here as members of Christ's Church for the benefit of those who do not yet know the Lord Jesus.  It may not be our preference to face constant change, but we can glory in the change that God makes in us, and in the change he makes in the world as He builds His kingdom here on earth as in heaven.  Rejoice in what God is doing and will do, and what better time to do that than Lent, Passiontide and Easter:-

Changed from glory into glory
'Till in heaven we take our place
'Till we cast our crowns before Thee
Lost in wonder, love and praise.


Charles Minchin