Thursday, 21 May 2015

Monday, 20 April 2015

Reflections on 2014-2015

It has certainly been quite a year at All Saints!

A year ago we were squeezed into the hall, and now we have returned to our church building refreshed and renewed. All of this has only been possible because of the generosity and energy of members of the church family. Special thanks must go to my wardens over the last year, Peter and Ashley, and the very many others who make All Saints life so rich and diverse. I would like in particular to thank those involved with our major fundraising events, our Ball and Christmas Fair, as we pay off the remainder of the ‘mortgage’ on our roof.

So what is God doing at All Saints? He certainly keeps surprising me. I had expected a period of quiet reflection after we returned to the church, a ‘Selah’ as the writers of the psalms would have it. Instead God keeps sending us new people of all ages. We have Robert arriving as curate and other placements as a possibility. With Sue now completed her training and Charles, Wendy and Fr. Peter sharing ministry in the Parish it is getting rather difficult to squeeze everyone into the sanctuary. Members of the congregation may well be feeling the same as we welcome new people to the church. But still I pray that we continue growing even if we have to shove up a bit in our pews!

The growth God is bringing to All Saints does require planning for the future. In this I have found our action groups invaluable, working with the PCC and Churchwardens. Our Worship group has provided some excellent reflection on our Sunday services and is taking responsibility for the 5th Sunday services, a space to be stretched and challenged. Our Pastoral group has begun to visit people on a more formal basis and be trained in prayer ministry. Our Mission group has been praying about welcome and witness as we share the love of Christ with others. All of these groups are open to all – and are not committees, although you may find you leave with a job to do.

As our main Sunday worship service grows and develops a lively character we do need to return to that ‘Selah’. Quieter more reflective services are available at 8am and 6.30pm as well as on Wednesday evenings. I greatly value these services as well as the other services we offer during the day in the week. Fr. Peter’s leadership of the lunch club Eucharist, combined with retaining the service in the hall has been a great blessing. Wendy’s leadership of Cameo and Evensong draws from her many pastoral and spiritual gifts. Sue’s prayer walks and monthly reflections will I pray become an essential part of our spiritual rhythm. On Wednesday evenings, we have adopted a monthly pattern of votive intention, The Departed, Healing, The Mission of the Church, Mary the Mother of God and The Unity of the Church. I would like to see these services grow too whilst retaining their character.

God is also strengthening our links with the community. Last year the visit from Bishop Alan, the Flower Festival, the Art display, the School services and other events brought new people through our doors to experience the love of Christ. As a ministry team we are involved in the life of the wider community as are the members of the church. Our hall users and groups are especially valued and prayed for. This year has also seen strengthened ecumenical links, especially through Christians across Watford.

My prayer for the year ahead is that God continues to do the work he has begun in us and we continue to grow. When any family grows there is change, when asked how much I always reply ‘no more change than a new baby brings!’ Just like being a growing family being a growing church will have its ups and downs – not just for the congregation but for the ministry team too. We will get some things right, and we will get some things wrong. Some things will be hard, and others will be a joy. But I believe all is worth it to be the Church that God is calling us to be.

With much love,

Fr. Eddie

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Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Dear Friends: April - The Seed that Dies

Happy Easter! Together this lent we have travelled with Jesus through the wilderness and the road he walked to Jerusalem. We have watched and prayed as Christ suffered and was crucified. We have discovered the empty tomb and met Jesus on Easter Sunday. Now the journey goes on through the Easter season.

The wonder of that journey is one that we may struggle to fully understand. Yet we know the ending of the story, one of Resurrection and Ascension and Pentecost. The disciples did not, even though Jesus gave them plenty of clues in the time before the events of the first Easter.

Jesus said:
“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit”
If Jesus is the seed, then we here today are a part of the fruit. We may confess boldly that Jesus died and rose for us, and in the simplest sense, it means this: That unless Jesus as the seed had fallen into the ground and died then there would be no resurrection and no Church. The death of Jesus was not just a historical accident, tragic in its inevitability, but through the resurrection becomes the turning point of God’s plan in history.

That pattern of death and new life reaches out beyond that moment in history. It is seen in the blood of the martyrs, in the sacrifice of countless individuals. It stands in stark contrast to the obsession with self that sometimes dominates our culture.

Jesus says:
“Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
The world life does not just mean a biological process, but rather who we are. Today we might talk about our lifestyle, and Jesus says we must be willing to let it go to have the fullness of eternal life. Sacrifice and loss are essential in following Jesus.

That pattern of death and new life goes beyond us as individuals. It applies to whole movements in the church. Throughout history, different expressions of church have grown up and withered away. This is hard for all of us.

The catholic tradition, which originally established All Saints, that was so successful in the Church of England that many parishes that embraced it began to view themselves as Middle of the Road, is waning. Not the faith and spirituality, but rather the lifestyle. Not so much the what and why of what we do, but the how. As a movement we have to let go of some of the externals we cherished, allow them to fall into the ground and die so something new may be born.

For me the reality of this came home a few years ago, as I discovered that those who shared my passion for people falling in love with Jesus were people that worshipped in a very different way to me. I had to abandon some prejudices and anger. I went back to the spiritual desire of those who first longed for catholic renewal in the Church of England. Then to be catholic – or apostolical as they called it - meant personal daily prayer, a focus on the Eucharist and an openness to the work of God in peoples lives. It was a simpler time - much of the richness of our tradition at All Saints would have been considered far too ‘Continental’!

But that richness is one thing that still has much to offer people searching for Jesus today. That heart for God present among us in sign and symbol is as vital as ever. I am committed to both.

Yet the challenge remains. What that we do as a church needs to fall into the ground and die that we may bear much fruit? What within us as followers of Jesus has to fall into the ground and die that we may know the fullness of new life?

As we celebrate together the Easter season let our hearts be open to God to hear the answers that together we may be filled with resurrection life.

God Bless,

Fr. Eddie