September 2018

Good News! Everyone is welcome…

The summer months offer us a little space to reflect on where we are going as a parish. I find myself asking questions like what are we good at? What do we have to offer people? What gets us excited whenever we are doing it? There are times when it seems as if we are belting along at a hundred miles an hour reacting to events that happen whether they be happy or sad, whether they are things that happen each year or things that happen unexpectedly and seem to hit us for six. One of the big questions interviewers tend to ask prospective employees is where do you see yourself being in 5 years time? Quite often they are looking for a sense of purpose or direction in what you are doing. When you have a goal, an ambition or desire you commit yourself to working towards achieving these things. I don’t always find it so easy to think in a similar way for the church but one of the things I have been asking is how can we create an environment that will help people to engage with the living God in the 21 st Century. How can we help those who are thirsting for some sort of spiritual meaning in their lives to find it in this place? Church life has changed quite remarkably in the last two decades since I was ordained. People will not automatically turn to the church at times of crisis in their lives. The patterns of work have changed so that many people now find themselves working on Sundays. It’s increasingly rare to find whole families coming to church regularly. Lots of things compete with church attendance on a Sunday from the activities of sports clubs and leisure centres to weekends away to the widespread availability of Sunday shopping.

It’s within this reality and this environment the church has an important mission to say and present something different. This year we will be running our first Alpha course, starting from Wednesday 19 th September, every Wednesday at 19.00 in the Church Centre. We will be providing a free supper during every session. Please join in this adventure of sharing, listening, exploring questions of life, faith and meaning. Alpha course is about respectful conversation. It is not at all pushy, judgemental or comes with threats. It can be simply exploring question of life, faith and meaning by sharing something you love, or spreading the word about something that has changed your life for the better that it might benefit others. To me this way seems much more in line with Jesus’ own ministry. As we see in scripture, he didn’t try to convert people to a religion, but he shared his good news, spoke truthfully, talked about God’s love and invited people to follow him. Even in his dealings with people of other faiths, Jesus’ exchanges weren’t around conversion. We actually don’t know if those people changed religions after talking to him, but we know from their testimonies that their lives were transformed. For many of us at St James, we have experienced God through being part of this community, and it has changed our lives for the better. We know that what we share together is unique and sense that there are probably people who are looking for such a place. Whether it’s people looking for a place where their questions and difference of opinions will be welcomed; that will support them in the work of raising a family; where there is a diversity of walks of life; that is actively involved in outreach and projects that target isolation and loneliness; that engages the senses and intellect through the arts and worship; where people are there for each other in good times and bad; where the wiggles and giggles of the youngest parishioners are welcomed and considered integral to worship.

How do we let people who are looking for such a place know about St. James Church family? One thing we all can do is talk about our St. James experience to friends or acquaintances. We can also welcome newcomers in such a way that their experiences match who we say we are (i.e. welcoming, accepting of diversity, inclusive of children and youth). Our Messy Church this month will be taking place on Saturday 22 nd September, 15.00-17.00 focusing on the theme of Harvest, thanksgiving and gratitude. From October onwards, Messy Church at St. James will be taking place on the 3 rd Saturday of the month, to avoid midterm breaks and bank holidays Thank you to all who attended our last Café church focusing on Church redevelopment Scheme. It was lot to process – facts, figures, two stages and funding. The details of the presentation are available from the church office. The standing committee and the PCC will be publishing the responses to the questions raised in the presentation later this month. On 30 th September (the 5 th Sunday in September) we will be having a short café church service in the Church centre with Breakfast with a brief outlook of “People and Places Initiative” taking place in the diocese of Birmingham and how this impacts us. This will be a short service and will finish in less than an hour. During the month of August, Hope Café has been running 9.00 till 14.00 Monday to Thursday. Thank you to all who continue to come and support this initiative. The launch date for ‘Hope for Sutton Project’ with Bishop David Urquhart will be taking place on Thursday, 4 th October, in St. James Church Centre. Invitations are on their way. Everyone is invited to attend the launch and I hope many parishioners will attend. Please let the church office know. God calls us to be active in sharing our faith and spreading the good news of God in Christ. We put our good news out into the world. We share our story. We share our community’s story. Along the way, we might find there are people who have been looking for that very thing, or, at the very least, are ready to hear a little good news.

Much Love and Blessings

Daniel and Judith