Author Archives: Nigel Chapman

LEADING OUR CHURCH INTO GROWTH

 

The 2018 growing season is just starting, buds are on the trees, snowdrops have given of their best, daffodils are at the ready and new growth is about to spurt into spring colour. Nature is coming alive again after the winter. [Apart from this week with the coldest weather conditions for years that is – Ed]. Many a gardener has already been preparing the soil, cutting back old dead wood and planting seeds in readiness for Spring. What of  our church though? Where are we preparing for and seeing new growth?

 

With our seemingly endless assortment of activities and events it would be easier not to redesign the garden of church life and to leave things as they are. Yet if we want lasting growth to happen, we need to develop positive growth strategies. Often our planning and church life is dominated by the 3 B’s of Budgets, Bureaucracy and Buildings rather than engaging us with taking us out of a ‘cycle of decline’. Research shows that to stay the same and do nothing may lead us to diminishing attendance, deteriorating finances and a spiral of decline that we have learned to manage but not reverse. However, actively and purposefully engaging with strategies for growth, means we could see significant NEW growth. Leaders in the church are being asked If you are not leading your church into growth, then where are you leading them?  It is a salutary question.

 

During February, five of us from our parish attended an intensive Diocesan Training Conference – Leading Your Church into Growth (LYCiG). It was a very challenging few days that explored how we as a group of churches might grow in numbers and depth of discipleship. It challenged us to think strategically and intentionally, instead of just letting things happen or carrying on with things we’ve always done. It challenged us to think about our purpose and mission and to measure everything against the yardstick of that purpose. It challenged us not only to be disciples, but to make new disciples within the context of our own situation.

 

So just what are we doing about growth?

 

The 2020 Vision is all about growth. If our mission is to reach beyond the walls of the church then we are not simply maintaining St Oswald’s and St Thomas’ or redeveloping the building of St John’s but growing a vision to reach out to our community with the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is about developing ourselves and our church life to reflect God’s love for his world. So, we will look more carefully at our worship and ask if it could be better and does it help us to grow? Are we intentional about discipleship? What will help us grow in confidence to tell our own faith stories? Are we taking opportunities to be invitational? What are we doing to help young people find faith? In other words, by developing LYCiG in our parish, it is going to help us deliver the 2020 Vision!

 

Prayer

Being intentional about prayer is the first step. Prayer absolutely sustains our journey of faith as individuals and as a church. It is specifically about engaging with God in the process of living out our faith in the real world, seeking his will, and being direct about praying for growth.

 

I am amazed by just how much we do in this parish. Let me assure you that LYCiG is not about doing more stuff, but about prayerful and planned pursuit of growth. It will lead us to ask difficult questions of what we are doing and why. It will help us develop a ‘Mission Statement’ [purpose] and to be strategic in using existing contacts and activities for evangelism. It may even lead us to do less but do it better, to change tack or even stop doing certain activities. It will help us to focus on what needs to be done as well as to engage us in deepening our own faith and discipleship. Growth starts with attentive prayer and to this end I would invite you to adopt the LYCiG prayer as a daily intentional prayer for our parish life.

 

God of Mission

Who alone brings growth to your Church,

Send the Holy Spirit to give

Vision to our planning,

Wisdom to our actions,

And power to our witness.

Help our churches to grow in numbers,

In spiritual commitment to you,

And in service to our local community,

Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

Every blessing

Nigel Chapman

Vicar of Filey

Lent: Great, Holy and Joyful?

Rejoice in the Lord, always. I will say it again.  Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all’.  (Philippians: 4:4)

 

Our hearts flutter and our stomachs rumble at the mention of a Great and Holy and Joyful Lent.  Ash Wednesday happens on St. Valentine’s Day this year, that’s why hearts flutter along with our feathered friends as they seek and find a mate.  The fast also begins and that’s where the stomachs come in!

 

Lent is time for a ‘making ready’, provisioning the vessel for the voyage through Holy Week and Easter.  Surplus cargo is jettisoned and only essential supplies taken on board; chart and compass to hand, the sails trimmed.

 

Lent begins as Great when on Ash Wednesday we are told, ‘From dust were you made and to dust you shall return’.  Dust reminds us of our God-Given morality for which we give great thanks. Dust is our essential mortal self, without which we would never have had any form.  Greatness lies in the dust for, as scientists tell us, at the point of the creation of the cosmos, a star exploded and dust scattered throughout the heavenly spheres.  All the essentials of life were in that dust; so remember, we are but star dust and are cosmically recycled.  Phoenix rises.

 

So it is that Lent is Great because the devotions of the forty days make us aware of our connectedness to all created beings, and our responsibilities to our planet.

 

Lent is Great as it calls forth a Holy response. A process of rejection and embrace begins.  Lent is Holy as it affirms the goodness of essential life and eschews the corruption, pollution and abuse of that life in all its forms; that kind of replacement therapy is the healing that comes from a Holy Lent.

 

Lent is Holy as it reminds us how all life is sacred, and how the world is a sacrament revealing the Love of God spilling over onto His Creation.  The essential fruits of that creation that we might taste are not forbidden, rather they are the accessible ‘Fruits of the Spirit’, ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control’ (Galations: 5:22).  These are the fruits which carry the seeds of the kingdom of God which we pray and plant for.

 

Holiness then turns Lent into being Joyful; our saints constantly tell how Joyful it is to fast from being ego-centric and feast on being Christo-centric, namely when Christ is at the centre of our being.  We read of our model, our Suffering Servant, in the Book of Hebrews, ‘For the joy set before him Jesus endured the cross’ (Heb.12:12).  Joy is serious and how else can we approach Holy Week and Easter unless we are joyfully prepared.

 

Should we fast, we do so privately; should we feast we share with others; we joust and jest; either way.

 

Rejoice in the Lord, always. I will say it again.  Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all’.

 

Joyfully yours,

 

Revd. Paul Burkitt

Christmas – You can’t always get what you want.

When I was 12, my parents gave me a ‘Matchbox Superfast Track’ for Christmas. I was gutted! I’d grown out of toy cars, I wanted a bicycle!! “You can’t always get what you want” goes the song, (and my mother). Very true. If we get everything that we want or worse demand, we could potentially become very selfish even narcissistic sort of people.

 

Christmas is a time of giving and receiving and of course the greatest gift of all came from God; the gift of His Son. Yet this gift comes at a cost both to God and us. The cost to God was the giving of himself, an incarnate Lord, upon the cross for our salvation. The cost to us, is to let go of self and our demands and to accept and receive God’s love. The Gospel teaches that salvation comes not from our own efforts, but in the acceptance of Jesus. It’s all about grace and most definitely not about virtue.

 

Grace in Greek means “to stoop in kindness – as a superior to an inferior”. In a biblical context, it is literally about an undeserved favour. When God looked “with favour” upon Mary, he entered her life powerfully with love and grace. In response, she became his servant and bore Jesus – the Christ. She was no Princess, just an ordinary girl asked to do an extra ordinary thing. It was sheer joy for her to do what God asked of her, but she also had to endure bitter pain and loss.  That is something of the paradox of the incarnation.

 

The prophet Micah (Ch 5) proclaims the promise of a restored relationship with God, who comes right into the heart of Israel (the people not the place). In doing so God calls for a response, not in burnt offerings or empty sacrifices or haughty words, but with hearts opened to receive Him and ready to act on God’s behalf. To act with justice, mercy and humility, as they walk with God. How might we do that in 2018?

 

In a year from now I want to see that our churches are growing both numerically and spiritually. I want our children and youth work to be re-established and on a great foundation with leaders grounded and established in the faith. I want our work of outreach into the community to be active and the churches alive, vibrant and joyful. I want our buildings to be well maintained and our finances in great shape, I want to see God doing…  I want, I want I want….

 

The list of what we want could go on forever, but what does God want?  Yes, it’s right that we consider our part in the church and I am grateful for all that people are doing for the life of the church, but there is also the ‘being’ to consider. If God is to do something here then it starts with the being, not necessarily the doing, as Micah so clearly states and as we sing each Christmas in the poem by Christina Rossetti

 

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am? —
If I were a Shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part, —
Yet what I can I give Him, —
Give my heart.

 

May God Bless you this Christmas and New Year, and may we continue to walk together, humbly with our God in 2018 in an endeavour to do his will and not our own.

 

Every Blessing

Nigel Chapman

Vicar of Filey