We come to that time of year where there is a lot going on and also where we begin to look back and reflect on the year past. My biggest reflection is that the year has flown by! It has been a year where we have seen a number of changes in church. No doubt change was to some degree expected with a new incumbent but most of us don’t always find change easy.
The changes that have been made over the past year have been driven by our vision and the plan to implement the vision, both of which were set by the PCC. Our strapline to the vision sums this change up; to help us: ‘grow closer to God, closer to one another and closer to our community’. I would like to thank you all for how gracious you have been as we have tried new things and stopped other things.
Perhaps the biggest change we have seen is the change to our service pattern at St Nicholas. You may recall that the service pattern over the last few months was proposed as a trial. The PCC have now reviewed the trial period in the light of the questionnaires and feedback we received back from the church family. A spreadsheet was made of all the responses and this was discussed in some depth at our PCC meeting on 27th November.
Overwhelmingly the feedback indicated - and the PCC affirmed - that the services are better together rather than having two smaller services. It seems most people enjoy all ages being together and the sense they have experienced of being a church family. People felt that care for one another had grown and newcomers are reporting that they are having a positive experience when they come, many commenting on the warmth of their welcome. Of course there were one or two that didn’t share this view but for every person who felt negatively about some aspect another felt positively about the same thing. The PCC therefore acknowledged that while we cannot please everybody all of the time we do want to do our best to accommodate different preferences.
We have therefore decided for the present time to continue our 10 AM pattern-the first three Sundays a month will be communion services and the first and third Sunday will retain the option for people to move to the chapel to continue the service informally without communion. The fourth Sunday will be a family service. Any fifth Sunday offers us the opportunity to hold a service appropriate with the season perhaps including at times, a joint service with St Hubert’s as we are doing on the 5th Sunday in December.
There were however a few areas which the feedback indicated we need to work on. For example, given the rhythm of different services during the month we recognise the need to help people better ‘navigate’ the service particularly if we introduce something new or unfamiliar within a service. We also recognised the need to better communicate what happens in the chapel week by week and also to strengthen further the variety and creativity within our services including the element within the chapel.
We will continue to adapt and enhance our services so that all of us, whatever our different temperaments and preferences, feel that in each and every service there is something that nourishes us in our Christian faith and our worship of God and enables us to be a blessing to one another.
Hospitality and Outreach
A core value that we have as a church is to be welcoming and hospitable; hence the provision of coffee (and breakfast at the family service) before and after Sunday services at St Nicholas. Some of you have wondered how we have funded this. All our hospitality is funded by the profits that are made from our Saturday café. We are hugely grateful for all those who work really hard on a Saturday morning to run this great outreach for our community. It is being well used, appreciated by many and offers us a special opportunity to get to know people in our community who we otherwise might not.
We are also excited at the many green shoots we are seeing appearing in this new season of life in both our churches as we seek to reach out to our community. It was so encouraging to have had a full house for the Nutcracker production and we are anticipating a good number through our doors this Christmas.
Thank you to all those who returned stewardship forms after our stewardship month in September and to those of you who are willing to commit to giving and serving here. However, although we have had a good number of forms back we have had very few responses offering to serve in a new way. Furthermore, there were very few responses which indicated a new intention to start to give to the ministry and mission of our church or indeed, for those already giving, their intention to increase their current gift.
This means that based on the information we have, the forecast is that we will be £8000 short of meeting our parish share let alone paying any other church related costs next year. It may be that some of you have planned to give for the first time or to increase giving and have not yet told us that. If that is the case please can I encourage you to take one of our stewardship packs and complete it as that will really help us to plan.
I do feel it is right as we approach the New Year to let the church know that we do face this shortfall. Our giving does need to increase next year and/or we need people to use their gifts and talents to organise activities that will raise money. Please can I ask you to pray and be open to what God might be saying to you. We are trusting that He will provide for us but of course we know that He wants to work through us in answering prayer.
On a more positive financial note our lettings are steadily increasing with more community activities choosing to use St Nicholas. In addition, the PCC has been delighted to have received the assets from the Wilmore Trust as the Trust itself will wind up at the end of the year. The assets include a lump sum (final figure will be available in our end of year financial report) and a flat which will provide income from rental. The lump sum and monies from the flat will be in a restricted fund and will only be able to be spent on things that the Wilmore Trust was intended for – this relates largely to young people. The PCC has decided that the best use of this fund is to employ a children and families worker in line with our vision to share the love of Jesus Christ and be a blessing within our community by connecting more effectively with children and young families. We have seen some great initiatives started this year with young children and their families including Tots, Toast and Tea and Mossy church; and in January we hope to start a weekly group for children during our 10am service. These are real examples of green shoots emerging in our midst and so the time feels right for us to start to look for a Children and Families worker, someone who will help us grow these new ventures to be even more fruitful.
As we look beyond ourselves to our community this Christmas we will be giving the collections at our special services this year to support the work of Routes to Roots, a local charity for the homeless. This is one of our three chosen charities that we want to nurture a relationship with. It is a charity founded on Christian principles and seeks to help all homeless, and vulnerably-housed adults in Poole. They provide basic necessities such as food 5 to 6 times a week, showers during drop-in hours, clothing and sleeping bags. They also provide projects to develop self-esteem, social skills and employment skills.
Lastly may I really encourage you to take that step and invite somebody who might not otherwise come to church this Christmas, to come with you to one of the services: our Carol service, Nativity service, Midnight service or our Christmas Day service. It is the one time of year when many people who would not normally come to church are willing to come and even more so if somebody invites them.
May we together as a church family share the many blessings of this season and prepare through advent to remember afresh the most wonderful news that the Christmas story proclaims - Emmanuel - God with us.
With every blessing
Jane Burgess (Rector)