Vicar’s Blog May 2018

Vicar's Blog ~ May 2018

The Rev'd Dr Gordon Giles

APCM Vicar’s report – 29/4/18

Dear Friends,

This time last year I had left for the United States on my study leave, and I managed to be a very long way away from the APCM! You managed admirably without me, and indeed, assisted by Jackie and Mo, the whole three months of my absence was looked after very well indeed. So I begin with a huge thank you to them and to Alison and Catherine, who held the fort and steered the ship so well.

The Annual report which appears in the Accounts and which is circulated at the APCM reveals the nuts and bolts of the year, the attendances, concerts, dramatic productions, money raised and spent and the general wellbeing of the ‘business’ of the parish and its activities and property. It is the legal requirement of APCM to rehearse all that, and rightly so.

But in what I say I want to keep us always mindful of the human dimension. For the parish is its people - us. We are the church, not the building, and it is we who make St Mary Magdalene’s what it is, with God’s help and grace, and we who come in to worship and go out into the world, whose comings and goings are always guarded and guided by our Lord.

My job, mostly, this evening, is to offer thanks. We have offered thanks and praise in the words and music of evensong, and now it’s my turn to offer thanks to those, without whom, at best we would be the poorer, at worst, we would be up the proverbial creek without a stick in the water. Money is important - it is the currency of life, and without it we would grind to a halt, so I begin with thanks that gets bigger and bigger each year, for Vic Smith, our trusty and beloved Treasurer, whose steadfastness, energy and commitment, as well as sheer skill, never ceases to amaze. He has been assisted by Vic Harrington and Michael Dixon and others and we thank them too for their trips to the bank and so forth.

We have, as always, wonderful churchwardens in this parish, and Catherine and Alison have formed a new partnership and sally forth into another year. Talking of Sally, she too is someone who has, certainly for me, just simply always been there, and hopefully will continue to be for a very long time! She is a wonderful backstop and administrative rudder in both parish and hall activities. Meanwhile Maureen Rew has added another year to her incredibly long service history of help in the parish office. Ken Cope has joined in this - as he now generates the parish bulletin for us to tweak and print, a valuable task for which we are extremely grateful. Ken has also revamped our website again recently, making it modern and top notch up to date, and keeps us all on our toes with communications. And those beautiful posters and flyers are also not to be forgotten!

Pam Hagan remains a stalwart, faithful and committed sacrist, who, with Vic’s help and Chris, and Jackie, Elizabeth, Janet, Elise, Michael, Dawn and others keep our worship wonderfully well-oiled. Others assist with the chalice and clean the church. Gill Bird manages the flowers, aided by Dot and Connie and Sue and Catherine, to name but four and our flowers continue to look beautiful at festival and wedding time.

As always, mention must be made of those various teams who enhance our corporate lives and grow in fellowship and skill simultaneously. The Care and Prayer Group and the Homegroup exercise vital ministries. The bellringers - out of sight perhaps but not earshot, they continue to call our community to prayer. Coffee makers serve a vital purpose and our faithful sidesmen and women provide a vital ministry of welcome.

Judy Smith has continued as Charities Champion and Events Co-ordinator while Alison and Paul Reeve look after Christian Aid week. Paul has continued to look after the electoral roll. The Sunday School is small and beautiful – and thrives under the leadership of Mo, and represents quality rather than quantity.

Rita Barker has handed over her staggeringly long role as Secretary of the Memorial Garden. After 37 years and still very much on top of her game, she has handed the mantle to Susan Rix, who has risen to the task with evident skill and gentle aplomb such that the Memorial Garden Committee can continue in careful management of that serene place where so many of our dear brothers and sisters in Christ find their resting place. Our thanks to and praise of Rita for this quiet task she has carried out for so long is incalculable. The way in which the handover has happened is also, in itself, and paradigm of succession planning: wonderful people both stepping aside and stepping in, such that service remains uninterrupted. We cannot thank them enough.

Stewardship remains a top priority and while there was no campaign as such in 2017, we are currently engaged in an extremely encouraging one. We can never lose sight of this fundamental dimension of our mission and ministry. We are not a rich parish, but we are blessed by your generosity, which together we rely on and are grateful for.

You will have heard about Fabric from the Churchwardens, and our fabric team have managed it very well, Michael Dixon, David Bird, James Horlick among them. We also owe great thanks to Phil Bird and his henchmen who have responded so generously and swiftly to emergencies from time to time, not leastly when we are the victims of crime, as we were in November. On a happier note, it’s worth mentioning that our next trip to Oberammergau in 2020 is hoving into view, and this evening I am officially opening the bookings! Do take a brochure!

Our designated charity for last year was Shelter, for which we raised healthy sums. As usual Carol Singing raised a lot of money although a concert for Dementia UK had to be cancelled because of bad snow before Christmas. The orchestral Carol Service was attended by the Mayor, and was a true showpiece of what our choir and friends can do. We also had a splendid orchestral ‘Come and Sing’ performance of John Rutter’s Sing with the Sprit. Such events are sponsored anonymously, so cost us nothing and raise money for charity. Thanks are very much due to Keith Beniston and Jonathan Marten for their great work with us, for their ambitions, creativity, enthusiasm and ability. Meanwhile the organ project continues at a slow but steady pace. Thousands have been raised, thanks to coffee mornings and other initiatives.

From music, to drama, and the delight of having T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral performed, was a highlight of the year for me. It also raised significant sums for the organ! Chris Moon did a wonderful, professional job and a polished production was enjoyed not only here but in Northaw and Clay Hill too. Meanwhile the Drama Group provide a thespian backbone to the Palm Sunday Service, and Christmas Crib services, the biggest events we do, and their contribution is vital and vibrant, as again, hundreds saw their slick presentation of the nativity story.

Other events are worth a mention too: the Golf Club annual dinner, a quiz, a cheese and wine evening, bingo, and the wonderfully named ‘Parish Event’ which raised thousands for the organ; as well as Spring and Christmas Fairs and all the activities of the Fellowship add to the rich social pattern, through which we grow together in fellowship and friendship to make the family that we are.

But like all families, we do lose people as they go to glory. Notably we lost our dear friend and priest Barry Oakley in 2017. While we remember the wonderful funeral we gave him here, and his burial in the Garden by Bishop Rob, our prayers remain with Margaret especially, and indeed for the families and friends of Kath Bower, Elinor Knight, Ivy Lyle, Wilf Jones and Stanley Graham, all of whose funerals and or interments we conducted in 2017. May they, with all the Saints, and all whom we remember at All Soulstide, rest in peace, and rise and glory. They have reached the end of their earthly pilgrimage, while we soldier on, under the banner of Christ, united in Christian fellowship and faith. It continues to be a huge privilege to walk that road with you in the service of Christ. For we are pilgrims on a journey, bearing the Christ light for one another, supporting and praying for those in need at home and abroad; and striving always to help others become fellow disciples, by the grace of the Holy Spirit. So as Acensiontide approaches: onward and upward!

Your friend and Vicar,