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'Look Forward with Joy & Hope'


Happy new year, if I haven’t had a chance to say it to you already!


I hope you can feel some level of anticipation at the start of 2024. Of course, January 1st is only a date, and the fact that we might have hung a new calendar on the wall doesn’t change anything else in our lives or in the wider world. But it’s a marker, a reminder that the world doesn’t stand still and we all have some capacity to shape it, however limited that may feel at times.


In the final message for 2023, Jo pointed out that the period ‘between Christmas and New Year is a wonderful opportunity to pause and lay our lives before Him again,’ encouraging us to invite the Holy Spirit to ‘guide this time and help you dream God’s dreams for you for the coming year’. She noted that this watching and waiting on God’s guidance is vital for us as individual Christians and vital too for us as churches.


One of my responsibilities as Team Rector is to ensure that the clergy team provide the best support we can to our common endeavour of mission across the parish. As part of that, I’ve been working for a while with my clergy colleagues on how we can best describe our various roles.


We’re clear that we all have a ‘pastoral focus’, in ministering to a particular church community – and clear that for all of us, this is not a full-time responsibility. Cathie, Charlotte and Dawn work part-time in the parish, and that ‘pastoral focus’ for a specific church community is the main thing they do with the hours that they give freely. Those of us who work full-time as stipendiary clergy also have a ‘parish focus’ alongside our ‘pastoral focus’, for coordinating and developing a key area of ministry across the parish as a whole. For Adam, that’s Children & Young People, Families & Schools. For Jo, it’s Prayer and Adult Discipleship. For Teena, it’s Lowest Income Communities.


I hope you’ll agree that those are all key areas for us as we seek to fulfil our parish vision statement: a family of churches centred on Jesus, serving the community and sharing our faith. In 2024, we’re going to be looking at how we can strengthen each of them in our life as a parish, connecting with what’s already there in our Mission Action Planning. For more information about that, speak to Adam, Jo and Teena!


My ‘parish focus’ sounds a bit dull by comparison: Oversight and Governance. That’s partly about ensuring we’re operating in a way that fits with the various frameworks to which we are accountable. It’s partly about the continuing task of developing the structures and the culture we need so that being one (very) large parish together releases energy and doesn’t just drain it. And it’s partly about being ready to deal with the unexpected things that happen along the way, and making sure they don’t derail us from our fundamental purpose.


As a new year begins, we don’t know everything that’s going to happen. But we know that God will be with us, to guide us and equip us for whatever lies in store, and therefore we look forward with joy and hope.

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