I was glad when they said to me, let us go to the house of the Lord! Psalm 122.1
I am so glad to have been able to partially re-open the doors of the church again, after so many months of having to keep them closed. My thanks to all those who have offered their assistance to act as stewards, thus enabling us to invite people into the church safely for private prayer.
If you would like to come and pray in the church building, you would be most welcome to do so on a Sunday morning, between 9.30AM and 11.00AM.
Acts of Worship and Re-opening of Saint Wilfrid
Many of us will have found spiritual comfort and refreshment from the regular online streaming of the Eucharistic celebration each Sunday. I must offer my sincere thanks to Fr. Ray Whelan, Peter Green and Jonathan Tamblyn, for the dedication they have shown in ensuring these can take place.
It is wonderful to have now heard news that we can actively plan for the resumption of acts of worship and other services, in the church building. As I write, guidance is being published for how churches and other places of worship can ensure worshippers are kept safe. When the PCC have discerned the application of this guidance for us, we will communicate the plans to the parish.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank all those who have continued to give financially to the church, in spite of the church not being open as usual. Thank you so much, your gifts have made an enormous impact.
As with so many other churches, organisations and businesses, Covid-19 has had a significant and detrimental impact on our church finances. This is mainly due to a complete stopping of hall hire revenue, no cash collections on a Sunday morning, and the poor performance of our investments. As planned giving has decreased in recent years, the church has become more reliant on the success of these investments and upon hall hire revenue, to mitigate the annual deficit.
I am thankful to God that we have the resources in reserve to weather this storm, and I am hopeful as we look to the future and all that God has in store for us.
Whilst it’s currently hard to make any concrete plans, the Apostolic Partnership continues to take shape. I wanted to share with you about some of the work that I have been undertaking.
Much of my work over the last few months has been that of listening and understanding: to the Wardens and PCC; to congregation members; to the Parish; to other churches leaders and charities; and to representatives of the wider area.
As a result of these conversations, five main focus areas are emerging:
- Sunday Morning Worship. For an informal expression of worship to happen on a Sunday morning, in addition to our traditional and sacramental expressions of worship that happen on a Sunday and throughout the week.
- Courses. For courses to be hosted which help people ask the big questions of life and encourage them to use the Christian message as the cornerstone for their relationships
- Helping the most vulnerable. For the doors of the church to be further opened to serve the most marginalised, the poor and the vulnerable
- Support Groups. For groups and other opportunities to be developed, in which people gather to connect and support each other.
- Engaging younger generations. For relationships with schools and the University to be developed and strengthened.
To ensure that these can be done really well, a number of things have been or are currently happening:
- Reviewing the current outline for worship on a Sunday and throughout the week, and planning for how a complimenting form of worship on a Sunday morning might be added. It has been most helpful speaking with a number of you regarding what you most appreciate about the worship at Saint Wilfrid and what you sense it would be a shame to lose. It has also been so helpful for me to have spent time in communication with Fr. Ray, and I am immensely grateful for his wisdom, patience and sensitivity.
- Understanding which courses would be most appropriate for the people of Bognor and planning for the running of these in from January 2021. In addition to The Alpha Course, we will be hosting The Marriage and The Pre-Marriage Course. We are planning further courses, such as The Parenting Course and Faith in Recovery, in 2022.
- Performing a mission audit which identifies the agencies who are already working for the social transformation of Bognor Regis, and prayerfully discerning how Saint Wilfrid might play its part in the work of social transformation.
- Understanding what is already happening in terms of social gathering, both as an official church activity and beyond this. Furthermore, exploring options for how to encourage people to connect and support each other more.
- Reviewing our finances and establishing short and long term budgets. This has only been made possible because of the hard work of our outgoing treasurer, who has amongst other things, developed an up to date cloud-based financial infrastructure.
- Undertaking a review of our communications and the development of copy and visuals that best articulate the ministry of Saint Wilfrid. A communication plan has been established which seeks to make the most of new technology, whilst also recognises the need for traditional forms of communication to be built upon.
- Auditing of all governance and compliance structures, and where needed introducing or planning to introduce new systems to help in this. Notably, work has taken place to amend the collection, storage and use of people’s personal data (details) and information has been migrated to a new database, as appropriate.
- Understanding the audio and visual equipment infrastructure which is currently in the church and consulting with industry professionals regarding the procurement of new equipment to meet the need of an informal worship form. Any installation will seek to be done as sensitively as possible to our beautiful building and will require the obtaining of Diocesan permissions before work can commence. I’m grateful for the grants which have been made available to us, to enable this work to go ahead.
- Reviewing how the office has been managed to date, and what the needs are going forward. I am immensely grateful to all those who have volunteered an incredible number of hours over a number of years, to enable the office and administration of the parish to happen so efficiently. It may be that because of Covid-19, the Church Office will need to remain closed for some time. We await further advice on this.
- Understanding how the relationship with the schools has developed in recent years and working with the head teachers to establish how we might work together moving forward.
- Identifying what paid and volunteer roles will need to be recruited for, to enable us to move forward. Each of these need to be recruited safely and fairly. Whilst we can begin recruitment now for some of the roles, we will need to delay a number of these until there is greater clarity regarding what we can and can’t do in the short-term, as a result of Covid-19.
- Developing relationships, both with existing members of Saint Wilfrid, and potential new members. I praise God that we now have fifteen people (adults and children) who are looking forward to participating in the new forms of worship at Saint Wilfrid.
I hope that this overview has been helpful and I would invite any questions or comments about any of this.
As I finish this elongated letter to you, may I leave you with the words of St Paul to the Church in Rome.
And this is my prayer for you:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15. 13
In Christ, with love,
Joel and Lella Mennie