Author Archives: Nigel Chapman

Prayer and Vision

At our recent Prayer and Vision Day we came to the conclusion that we are going to close St Oswald’s and let the Medieval Historical Society have it as a museum. The congregation can then move to St Thomas’ thereby making sure that we have a full church every week.

 

OK NO WE DIDN’T! The day was not necessarily about a radical rethink for the future. Having vision is like having strategy. In context, it is about how we endeavour to be faithful to the mission of the church – to serve Christ and make him known. The day was about seeking purpose in our relationship with God as we move toward the 2020’s.

 

Our prayers for the day centred around Psalm 23. The refrain “and I will trust in you Oh Lord – for your endless mercy follows me” led me to ask how are we nurturing a trusting relationship with The Lord Jesus Christ personally as well as corporately. Furthermore, how are we enabling others to come into fellowship with Christ? In the Psalm we note that God offers:

  • relationship,
  • rest,
  • refreshment,
  • healing,
  • guidance and
  • purpose.

Even in dark and difficult testing times God offers protection for the soul, faithfulness, security, hope and hospitality. God wants to bless us abundantly, and what he requires of us is to offer that blessing to the community. So, are we fit for purpose? What should we develop and what should we leave behind?

 

The Archdeacon of Cleveland led us through some diverse areas to think about including how the world has changed in recent years and how are we responding?

For instance, people no longer believe in absolute truth, individualism has taken over from community, spirituality is wider and more pick and mix in our post modernism (and even that is now old hat)! Christianity can feel marginalised and is just another among many religious practices. Sadly, it is also often regarded as ‘fake’. We live in challenging times. So, what is the future for our church?

 

Acts 2:17

Quoting Joel, St Luke wrote ‘“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams”’.

 

Vision and dreams (or hopes) help us to take stock and assess where we are, so that we may be clearer about where we need to be going. So here are a few reflections that emerged from those who came on the day:

  • Focus on who we are and what we have and not dwell on what we haven’t got. No more “what if’s” or “if only’s”.
  • Face the challenges and where necessary refocus our energies.
  • How can we be more inclusive and make church really accessible to all?
  • If we do nothing, we can only expect to decline in numbers.
  • It may mean changes in how we do things and what we offer.
  • We need to consider where our time, money and energies are going and ask ourselves what should be our priorities.
  • Do a skills and gifts audit.
  • We cannot do everything, and the vicar can’t be everywhere, but there are some obvious gaps – such as with young people.
  • It may mean merging some activities to release time and people for other things, such as a Youth Café.

 

Where now?

Over the next few weeks I would encourage you to continue to discuss, pray and seek vision for our churches. We want to allow our thoughts to develop and the right strategies to emerge. For sure, standing still is not an option and priorities need to be set. To this end I would invite you to come together again for a plenary time on Saturday 5th August in the Vicarage marquee from 10.30am – 12.30pm. Our starting point will be (as one person reflected on the day) –  ‘Believe in what you are being called to do and use the resources you have, purposefully, to further the Kingdom.

 

May God bless our churches as we continue to develop our vision and sense of purpose.

With every Blessing

Nigel Chapman

Vicar

Ordinary Times?

In the Church of England liturgical calendar, we have just entered into what is called ‘Ordinary Time’. It stretches out before us for 23 weeks until the Sunday before Advent at the end of November. Having had the celebrations of Easter and Pentecost you could be forgiven for thinking that this period of time is a bit of an anti-climax where church becomes rather ordinary and every day –  even boring! We do like our high days and holy days and crave the special events where we can pull out all the stops. In her brilliant bible study book ‘Everyday God – The Spirit of the Ordinary’ eminent theologian Paula Gooder writes: “Ordinariness is not exhilarating; it does not imply stimulation or interest [but] in these periods is a richness, a depth of potential experience which we need to encounter”.

 

In what appears to be the ordinariness of life we can continue to glimpse the extraordinariness of God involved in our everyday life, especially if we care to keep on seeking and connecting. I love the Celtic invocation of the Holy Spirit to come to us from “where ordinary is made glorious and glory seems but ordinary”. It kind of makes the point I’m trying to make here.

 

God is an everyday God! We can know God to be among us in the ordinary rhythm of life not just on Sundays, special events or festivals.  We can know God while cutting the grass, cleaning the pots, doing the shopping because God is not apart from us. The Incarnation ‘God with us’ is not just for Christmas, it’s for life! The early Christian church learnt this as they began to reach out into their communities with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Studying together, praying together, eating together, worshipping together and doing evangelism together they learnt that God was among them always in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Their spiritual lives became established in the ordinary as well as the extraordinary times of life and the church grew because of this. Faith strengthens when little and weak faith is put into practice. Even when persecuted and tormented or facing death by those who sought to put an end to Christianity, faith grew during the ordinariness of life.

 

So instead of seeing ‘Ordinary Time’ as a period of spiritual wilderness or treading water it should be a time of growth while prayerfully seeking God in all areas of life, both as individuals and as the church.

 

To this end, our day together as a benefice on 15th July is an important day and I would encourage you to make it a priority as we seek to be an ordinary church serving an extraordinary Lord. It is a day of exploring where God may be leading us in the coming months and years. Let us continue always to Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

 

Nigel Chapman

Vicar

Thy Kingdom Come

What could you talk about ad infinitum. What passion could you talk endlessly about?  Gardening, mending clocks, history, model making? When my brother in law and I get together it’s not long before we talk about anything photographic. In fact, family now take bets on how many minutes it takes before the word “Camera” is mentioned. I find it quite interesting, but others don’t share my interest. Then again, I can appreciate model making but I don’t want to listen to someone talk about it.

 

We all have interests that we can be passionate about, but what about our faith? Are we passionate about that? It seems no one really wants to talk about matters of faith. Is it any wonder? Politicians are berated for their beliefs and Christians scoffed at as simple souls with bonkers ideas. Christians are often painted with the same negative coloured brush. Consequently, it is easy to shy away from speaking up about our faith. Best keep it private and personal. It’s safer that way.

 

When the disciples shut themselves away after the crucifixion the dread of being rounded up and executed themselves was a very real fear. They felt it was best to stay out of harm’s way. Yet Jesus promised that he would send to them the Holy Spirit. I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24)
 

When that day came, the disciples were transformed. They became passionate about Jesus, but not in a boring way. In fact, they changed from being downhearted disciples to powerful apostles of Christ. An apostle is an advocate or a champion.  Are you a champion for Christ? Qualifications are not necessary, just a living faith!

 

Between Ascension (25th May) and Pentecost (4th June) as part of the national ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ project Revd. Liz Kitching and I have decided to organise 12 days of prayer walks and we would invite as many as possible to come along with us. We are going to quietly and humbly walk the streets for an hour each day simply to pray. Will you join us? Alternatively, would you walk with us in spirit, by following a daily prayer route on a map at home?  Details and maps will be available at the back of our churches, or from the office.

 

The Day of Pentecost is an important day in the life of the Church when we remember how the apostles were clothed with power from on high. It is the day that the Holy Spirit was released upon a fearful band of Christ’s followers who were changed into people able to speak about Jesus without fear and in the power of the Holy Spirit.  On a daily basis, God worked in and through them to the extent that thousands of people started to follow Jesus and become people of Christ. That same Holy Spirit and same power is available to us all, because God wants to work out his purposes not just in us, but through all who call themselves Christians. Qualifications are not necessary, just a living faith, an openness to the Holy Spirit and a willingness to step out! Let us pray!

Revd. Nigel Chapman

Vicar