I write this letter from Covid isolation, not quite the same as Paul writing to the church from his prison cell, but nonetheless I wanted to start by giving thanks for your faith in Christ and to appeal for continued unity in the mission that God has given us and in which we are beginning to see the fruits across a range of age groups.
I also write to explain the difficult decisions that the Church Council had to make on Tuesday
evening. However, I wanted to explain this in the context of our mission, growth and vision for the future. When Jesus calls the first disciples (Luke 4) he climbs aboard their fishing boat and tells them to put out into deeper water. I believe that as a church we are called to leave the safety of the harbour and begin to put down our nets in deeper but perhaps more challenging water. Under the direction of Jesus, those first disciples objected at first to putting down their nets, but in the end did as Jesus instructed. The result was an incredible catch of fish.
This is an exciting time in the life of our church as we leave the safety of the harbour and begin to let down our nets, we are already beginning to see the results as we experience significant growth in our membership and church attendance (in all age groups). In addition, we have also had many new families come to join us on a Sunday morning, meaning that we have had to adapt our worship style. Coupled with the sad loss of so many of our older members and those who have moved to be closer to family over the last 2 years, there has been a significant movement in our congregation. I am aware that this has posed challenges for some who have found the pace of change difficult, but again I want to reassure you all that I continue to look at ways of making sure there is an even blend of more contemporary as well as traditional worship and opportunities for people to get to know those who are new amongst us. The future looks bright for us here at our Church as we continue to pray, discern and be obedient in following God’s direction both in worship and mission.
It is in the context of our growth and mission that I want to let you know of the difficult decisions that the Church Council made on Tuesday night, concerning same sex marriage and the future of children and family’s ministry here at St. Ives.
Firstly, the Church Council voted to register our building to include the marriage of couples of the same sex, and to allow blessings for same sex marriages which have taken place previously
elsewhere. This decision was taken in the context of prayer, after careful consideration and
engagement in a process which has taken place over a long period of time especially since early Rev Nick Witham Tel: 01480 462293 Mobile: 07483 154590 email: firstname.lastname@example.org 2020. Thank you to everyone who has been part of this process of listening, loving, sharing and praying. As we move forward, we do so honouring each other’s convictions, acknowledging that among our trustees and congregation we have faithful people who believe and hold contrary views. Despite the decision taken by the Church Council, the Methodist Church allows for these contrary views to be held together within the church and again I would want to direct attention to the unity that we have in our mission to be a place of radical hospitality, proclaiming the need for personal salvation and relationship with God through faith, always looking to Christ alone.
The other difficult decision that needed to be made concerned the future of the Children & Families Worker role. The current contract expires in December 2022 and initially the Church Council was asked to consider whether to both extend the contract by a further three years and expand the hours to full time. However, the view was taken that there was a need to consolidate in the areas that we were currently working with a concern expressed about capacity of church volunteers to sustain any new project work. Therefore, a further proposal will be brought to extend the current contract by 3 years and expanding the hours by between 6-8 hours per week, enabling us to build on existing projects with some ability to pick up a limited amount of new work.
There are a couple of other challenges that the Church Council considered that are affecting the forward vison of the church. We are in the situation where we are being stretched financially and in vacant positions. As we recover from the Covid restrictions we are seeing a return of our letting’s income, but with increasing bills we are still projecting a substantial loss over the year. Our finances are crucial as we look to build on the wonderful mission work that we are already doing. If you want more information on how to give for the work of the church, then please do send a message to me or to Lesley Knell our Treasurer. Also, although we are seeing growth which is fantastic, and it is great that many of our new members bring their own gifts that we will be able to use going forwards, right now we have a small number of people managing this growth until others come on board. I ask you all to pray for the vacancies that we have in our Leadership Team Finance, Property and Communication Teams, Pastoral Visitors, Door & Coffee lists.
I want to finish by appealing once again for the church to join in unity regarding our vision to
continue to see new people experience God and coming to faith as we discover more about how God is working through the mission of this church. Finally, Ephesians 4 v1b-6:
I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and
gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the
Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to
one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of
all, who is over all and through all and in all.
If you would like to talk further about the decisions of the Church Council or anything else mentionedin this letter, please do hesitate to get in touch with me.