I’ve been in post for six weeks today, and what an exciting and challenging, fulfilling and daunting, wonderful six weeks it has been! I shouldn’t be surprised, because God is the God of surprising happenings, fresh chances and new beginnings, and, guided by His Spirit, we have seen some of the ways He is at work in our community: making connections and beginning the wonderful work of transforming lives.
My priorities are simple, based on the example and words of Jesus:
- Love is central. (Love God and Love one another)
- Prayer is central. (Pray at all times)
- Building relationships is essential. (God calls us to koinonia - communion/ fellowship)
- Scattering the mustard seeds of the Kingdom of God is up to us;
Bringing growth and establishing the Kingdom of God is up to God through His Spirit. He has chosen and called and sent us, working in partnership with Him to ‘Go and make disciples...’
In my Bible Reading on 8 November, and at Morning Prayer that day, I was reminded from Isaiah 43: ‘See, I am doing a new thing, can you not perceive it?’ And, from the reflection on that day’s readings: ‘Something new is beginning, and it will demand our best efforts and our absolute attention.’
Good. ‘That’s all very good and true,’ I hear you say, ‘but what have you been doing?!’
Let me explain, briefly, with the helpful structure of three sections:
- Building relationships with key people and organisations in our community
- Building relationships and hearing faith stories of many people in our congregation
- Random, surprising and unplanned encounters
Firstly, and very intentionally, I’ve been contacting people in Stanway community to have 1-2-1s with them. This included the Chair of the parish council, John Spademan and his wife Carole; town councillor for Stanway, Lesley Scott-Boutell, and other councillors at the annual council meeting on 31 October. I have visited two schools so far: Stanway Fiveways and The Stanway School, and, together with Tony, have met with Paul Banks, the CEO of Chelmsford Learning Partnership who will be responsible for the provision of education at Lakelands Primary, which opens in September 2020. On Monday, I will be meeting with Jonathan Bland, headteacher of Stanway School to discuss a two term, one day a week Chaplaincy role (maternity cover), beginning January 2020, through CYO. What a joy these and other meetings have been, most ending with prayer for God’s presence and blessing. These conversations form the seeds of working relationships and partnerships which will enable us, together, to bless our community.
Secondly, meeting with and visiting many church groups and many individuals from within our church and other church fellowships: Albright’s Tots; Ladies Fellowship; Lunch Club; Rosemary Almshouses Trustees; Love Stanway; the Light Party (Stanway Evangelical Church); North Essex Mind and Spirit Meeting; Colchester Citizens Mental Health working group (meeting with Dr Ann-Marie Soares, lead medical practitioner at Ambrose Avenue Group Practice); Mission Shaped Ministry Pioneer Training course; Pioneer prayer with the Diocese, with Tony and Michael (so far!) and with two other Pioneer Ministers in Colchester. Each of these very significant group and individual meetings are enabling me to build relationships and get to know the people who form my core team, my wider ministry team and the still wider Diocesan Pioneering Team. I can do very little on my own, but together, with God’s Spirit, we can enable the flourishing of our community. Thank you for your hospitality and your generous welcome! And if I haven’t yet visited you or had a chance to meet up with you, let’s make a plan!
Thirdly, the random and surprising encounters which seem to happen on a more than regular basis, especially as we are praying and walking around our parish.
Take, for example, the story of Grace and Kenny: on my very first day in Stanway, meeting with Dave Wade, the Diocesan Pioneer and New Worshipping Community’s co-ordinator, in Starbucks (close to the church and New Housing Development; lots of parking space, and warm!), two people served us: Grace and Kenny. It turns out that Grace started work as manager the same day as I did as Pioneer Minister! Today, as I was having a meeting with my mentor, Kenny (Deputy manager) served us. I was busy trying to work out where (in the absence of a warm church or a house/rectory) we could hold a Pioneer Prayer meeting. I asked Kenny if it would be possible to book the little corner space for a small group to grab a coffee and meet one evening? He contacted Grace: yes, they’d love to host us, and would even be happy to arrange to stay open a little longer if we needed to meet after-hours! Little coincidences; small beginnings; wonderful opportunities to meet and pray and learn and grow.
Prayer walking out and about in the community, too, has brought about five significant encounters and conversations resulting in the Pioneer Stanway contact card being given and prayer being offered and received - including by two business managers in the Tollgate Retail Park.
What will come of these significant and often surprising encounters? God only knows. Let us pray for the germinating and growth of the seeds of the Kingdom of God in good soil.
Please consider joining us for our Pioneer Prayer and Vision meetings at one (or all!) of the following times:
- Every Monday morning: prayer walking, 9.15-10.15 beginning at the church
- Monday 25th November: 7.15 -8.15pm, Starbucks, coffee/tea provided
- Monday evenings during Advent: after the 7pm Advent Reflection in the church
- Monday afternoons: 13th and 27th January, 2-3pm, church hall
Joining in, bringing yourself, your gifts and an open and willing heart, may be one of the best decisions you could ever make. Jesus says, ‘give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap, for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.’ Luke 6:38.
Don’t miss out!
I finish with a Pioneer prayer written by our Bishop, Stephen Cottrell in From the Abundance of the Heart:
make my life a sign of your engaging love:
may my heart be penitent,
my actions generous,
my words be sensitive.
Fill me with longing to share with others the good news I have received,
and anoint my life with your Spirit that Jesus be formed in me:
his tongue to speak in me,
his hands to work in me,
his heart to beat in me.
And so through all I do, and all I am,
and with the people where you call me to witness,
may Jesus be known
and his kingdom established.