Vicar's Letter January 2018

JANUARY 2018

Dear Friends,

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

The years roll on!  As ever we look back with a mixture of gratitude and regret, with a sense of achievement and a sense of disappointment. We look forward with a mixture of expectation and of apprehension, of hope and fear. Much of what happened last year, much of what will happen this coming year, was beyond our control. But we need to decide on our priorities for the year ahead, we need to make plans if we are going to succeed in anything. Then – and only then – can we stop trying to predict the future, as we work for the future we want, and learn to accept that what we encounter will be God's gifts re-shaping our lives in his image, not us making our lives in our dreams. So we look forward, think, dream, plan - and then pray that God will give us even more than we dare to expect.

MINISTRY

So here's my first question to you! What is your ministry as a  Christian? I expect a variety of answers to that question.  Some of you, I expect, will say, I'm not a minister, just a member of St. Cyr's; others perhaps will say, the job I do at St. Cyr's is …, (and there will be a great variety of jobs mentioned).  I want, with the greatest respect, to suggest that you are answering a very different question, which is what job do I do within St. Cyr's (or perhaps within the Church of England.)  One of the things I never manage to say enough, and that needs to be said particularly at New Year, is thank you for all the things that so many of you do. You will find a list elsewhere in this magazine of some of what needs doing to keep us going; in no way am I trying to belittle that work. But Christian ministry includes so much more than jobs that the vicar (or a churchwarden) asks you to do! 

READERS

For example, in a Church service the scriptures need to be read to the congregation.  So we ask some folk from the congregation who we know can read confidently, fluently and accurately (and perhaps loudly!) to do that job.  But I hope that what we are in fact asking is not (just) for human skills and abilities but for the God-given ministry of bringing His Word to the people. That is a calling, a privilege, rather than a task set by me because I wonder if people are sick of the sound of my voice. It is not the same as my calling (and that of other clergy and licensed Readers) to expound the meaning and application of the scriptures to your daily lives. It is just as important.

HOSPITALITY

Perhaps the rota you have “volunteered” for is the coffee rota, so that you can hide in the back of Church and do your little job without fuss, still doing your particular bit for St. Cyr's.  Thank you very much for that work; it is in fact a very important part of what we do as a Church. Proverbs 1517 says Better is a dinner of vegetables where love is than a fatted ox and hatred with it. Thank you so much for your ministry of love in serving the coffee and opening the biscuits! Rejoice in your calling to love. And please be ready to extend that ministry (as so many of you do) when we try and look outwards beyond the Church membership to serve the parish, rather than just ourselves. By God's grace, St. Cyr's can be a place of hospitality to believers and unbelievers alike. Thank you, not just for doing a job that needs doing, but for your Christian Ministry.

ENCOURAGEMENT, PRAYER and HEALING

There are, of course, many other ministries to which Christians are called. I mention these three for two reasons. One is that I expect very few of you will lay claim to these ministries, believing that they're the Vicar's job. The other is that I am convinced that if you believe that, you're wrong! I'm not saying that my calling does not involve these things; I'm saying that yours does too and that most of you are better at it than I am! This is the point at which I stop talking about churchy jobs and enter the realm of real Christian Ministry! Such as the ministry of a mother or a father, a grandparent, or (just??) a friend.  Mothers really do “kiss their children better” - by God's gift, not by clever auto-suggestion. Grandma's prayers really are answered. Each and every one of us can encourage each of our friends (and more) in following Jesus. Not all, not even most, of Christian Ministry takes place within the confines of church activity. Rejoice in the ministry God has given you as a member of your family, or of this or that club, as a resident of this town, or as an employee of a particular firm.

SHARING

My second question to you is Will you share your ministry with the whole Stroudwater Team of Churches? As we all learn what it is to work as a team, we have coming up a special opportunity to do just that – a Team Conference to take place at Standish Parish Hall on Saturday 27th January between 9am and noon. I hope many of you will be able and willing to come to that occasion and that all your ministry will thrive in the power of God.  Let me finish by twisting some of St. Paul's words to the Corinthian Christians. “I may have been given every gift of God, I may have been called to any number of Christian ministries, but if I have no love, I am nothing”. May you all first receive the love of God – overflowing from your hearts – and then recognise the call of Christ to ministry in which you will prosper and through God will build His kingdom.

God bless,

Charles Minchin

 

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