Much has changed in our world and church since we launched our Parish Vision Document in early 2020. Our nation has been dealing with the challenges of Covid-19 and Brexit – within our Diocese, we have a new Archbishop – and as a Parish, we have faced the challenges of not physically worshipping together, and a fall in income as our buildings can not be used.
Honest with ourselves
There have been reports on safeguarding that have been highly critical of the Church of England – there has been the Black Lives Matter movement, which is challenging us to look at our attitudes and actions – and there is the on-going concern about the environment and global warming. All these are encouraging us to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge our own failings – to commit ourselves to speak out against sin and injustice – to seek to be more educated and informed on these issues – and dedicate ourselves to prayer and prophecy, as we are in a spiritual battle.
It would be easy to despair and feel downcast.
And yet, there has been so much good that we have seen in these past months – Zoom services and prayer meetings, an opportunity to ‘love our neighbour’ in meaningful ways, and the chance for us to really appreciate those who make a difference in our society.
Doing things differently
As we look forward to 2021, so we have a chance to keep some of these things at the forefront of our minds, to not lose the desire to reach out, and to look at doing things differently.
The Church of England has developed a Vision for the 2020’s, which was presented at General Synod in November. The Archbishop of York then spoke to this at our Diocesan Synod – and it signals a subtle change of direction under his leadership for the years to come.
To live Christ’s Story
While emphasising the 5 Marks of Mission that we have included in our Vision Document, the Archbishop also encouraged us to live Christ’s Story, and in this, to share hope – we tell God’s story as uniquely revealed in the Scriptures, and we tell the continuing story of God at work in our world today, with us as part of that story – what God in Christ has done and is doing!
- We are becoming more like Christ
- Reaching people we currently don’t
- Growing churches of missionary disciples
- Transforming our finances and structures.
The ‘new normal’
And so as we begin to consider what 2021 might look like, what the ‘new normal’ might be, let us commit ourselves to
- Praying – interceding and lamenting. Can we protect the much-needed space for unhurried prayer?
- Learning – keeping up-to-date with what is going on in our world so the choices we make and the actions we take are conscious and well-informed.
- Speak-up – to stand up for justice, using our voice and resources to help build a better world.
- Live – reducing, reusing, recycling – examining our lifestyle choices, and changing them if necessary.
- Give – the way we choose to spend our money shows what we value.
- Imagine – Walter Brueggemann writes about ‘prophetic imagination’, allowing the Biblical story to so deeply shape our imagination that we’re able to envisage the world as it should be.
(these thoughts come from an article by Ruth Valero in an article in the Aug. 2020 edition of Christianity Magazine)
This past year has highlighted the importance of the church as Parish and Place – the importance of local ministry – and the importance of pastoral care. How can these be expressed in Clifton Parish in the months to come? What are we already doing that we need to continue – and what else (new or different) do we need to put in place?
Perhaps we are being invited, by the Holy Spirit, to lay down our assumptions and prejudices about church form in order to allow space for new forms to emerge. We will certainly need to look at our digital presence moving forward – how do we combine this with our physical presence in a building each week?
As we engage with God in the world – the Missio Dei – we realise that God invites us to participate in the flow of transforming, reconciling life in the world as His Kingdom comes into being. The Holy Spirit invites the church (Christ’s body here on earth, not the building) into new territories that will be challenging and perhaps threatening. We need to find a way in which what is perceived to be old and traditional is enabled to live alongside that which can be seen to be new and contemporary.
The call to rebuild
I believe that much of our task in Clifton Parish in 2021 is going to be about rebuilding – rebuilding ourselves in faith, hope and discipleship – rebuilding our congregations once the buildings reopen – rebuilding our relationships with people we have not seen for a long time – rebuilding our ties with the community as groups have not met. This will take time and energy – and can not be hurried, especially if God is calling us into new relationships and new ways of doing things.
Our Parish Priorities will remain Small Groups, Pastoral Care and Prayer, although we will obviously also continue to work on the other goals outlined in our Vision Document. We will also seek to engage constructively with the Diocesan Vision, acknowledging our place within the Church of England and the Diocese/Deanery of York.
Kirsty, Matt and Claire (all appointed/licensed in the last year) will continue to settle into their roles, working both digitally and in person. Our new curate arrives in July. The new website is being launched at the beginning of January. These are exciting times for us!
The call to give
We will continue to find these times challenging from a financial point-of-view – and we do hope that members of the congregations can still give as generously as they have in the past. We will be undertaking a Giving Campaign after Easter – the Diocesan Generous Giving team will be helping us with this.
Rebuilding will be a challenge – rebuilding that which is old, as well as that which is new. Prayer, commitment, faith will all be important – as will working together and seeking the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
It has been good to have had the input of a variety of people in this process already – thank you! We will continue to listen to different voices and different points of view as we discern the leading of the Holy Spirit. Our Mission remains ‘to know Jesus and make known His transforming power’. This stays the same, even if the society/community in which we seek to fulfill this has changed dramatically. We must therefore change too!