Rectors Letter – March 2015

Dear friends,

What is needed, to bring hope, life and growth to the Church of England? General Synod last month sounded a note of realism and hope. A number of reports were debated and approved, which offer some radical answers to the very real crisis that faces us. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have written about it in a paper called GS 1976, which you might like to read at www.churchofengland.org

The crisis: The Archbishops say that attendance at C of E services has declined by 1% every year over recent decades, while the average age of the membership has gone up and up. Of course, reducing numbers means less giving. In addition, the age profile of the clergy is increasing, and their numbers going down (40% are due to retire in the next decade). Church buildings continue to be a heavy drain on time and resources. The church has struggled to maintain its presence in some of the poorer areas of the country, and some of our more northern dioceses in particular are seriously under-resourced. All that adds up to a situation of crisis.

The proposals: But, praise God, an attempt is being made to do something about it. One report is about discipleship, emphasizing the need for us all to know Christ, to follow him, serve him, and make more disciples. Without a renewed commitment to real discipleship across the Church of England, we are truly lost. Another is about ministerial education, looking at how we should select and train more lay and ordained ministers for the future in a way that is both effective and cost-effective. Another is on simplification, which plans to do away with bits of church legislation which can clog up our administration and prevent mission and growth. Another is on discerning and nurturing senior leaders, and proposes new ways of spotting those with potential to be bishops, and helping them prepare for that and other leadership roles. And there are other reports about directing money to poorer areas, and to places that are showing ‘good growth’. But how will it all be financed? The proposal is that the Church Commissioners should put in a massive dollop of one-off funding – probably several hundreds of millions of pounds – to prime the pump for growth. This is invested money, which can only be used once, and must not be used except for emergencies … but we are all now recognizing that we are living in an emergency.

These are radical proposals, from which I take heart. And I was particularly encouraged that there was much talk of following Jesus, sharing the good news, growing in prayer, working for growth, nurturing the gifts of lay people, and seeking the glory of God. There are tough times ahead, steady nerves will be needed, and there are still big divisions over human sexuality and other matters. But we must pray for our Archbishops who have stepped forwards in faith to promote a programme for change. God has blessed us in Yeovil with good and lively church life which means we are sheltered in many ways from the effects of the wider crisis. But we must still pray for our churches to grow. We must pray for ourselves and our own growth in discipleship. And we must pray for God to have mercy on his church, and grant us a future we do not deserve.

While I was at Synod, someone drew my attention to Psalm 106:44-45: ‘But God took note of their distress when he heard their cry; for their sake he remembered his covenant and out of his great love he relented.’ May the Lord hear our cry in our own generation also.
With my best wishes – James.

Rector’s Letter January 2015

Dear friends,

I wonder if this was your resolution for 2015: Come to church every week! If you belong to St. Andrew’s or St. John’s, do your utmost to come every week. Belonging to a church is a big and significant thing in anyone’s life, and it matters to all of us if you are missing. A Christian believer who comes irregularly does not belong to their church with the kind of commitment that honours God, helps their fellow-Christians, and enables them to grow in their own discipleship. Of course it’s fine to take holidays, and illness and old-age and some other things can keep us away on Sundays (or Tuesday mornings); but if you really belong to God, you will make every effort to be present with God’s people for our main weekly meetings.

Belonging to a church is not like belonging to a club, it’s more like belonging to a nation. As an Englishman living in England, I speak English, breathe English air, and live English life: I can’t help it – that’s who I am. As Christians, we belong with our fellow-Christians who are God’s people, and we should live church life. (After all, the Old Testament people of God were a nation, and the New Testament speaks of Christian believers as being ‘a holy nation’, united not by race but by Christ).

Now some of those who turn up irregularly in our churches are seeking for God, looking into Christian faith, and are being gently drawn by God towards Christ and his church. And that is great – we want them to come whenever it suits them, and if you are one of those, please be our guest, please keep using our services in whatever way works for you. But for those who know they belong to God, who are already committed Christian believers, well, you should come to church every week if you possibly can. Do not forget the command of Scripture: ‘Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching’ (Hebrews 10:25). The Day of God will come, and a new year reminds us of the march of time. We need God and we need each other. And we need you. If you belong to a Fellowship Group (or another kind of church group), the same applies: your attendance matters.

Sorry if I have sounded like a grumpy Schoolmaster, trying to lay down the law. Christianity does not work by law but by grace, and if God’s grace has gripped us, then time in church with God’s word and God’s people celebrating God’s love will bring the greatest joy to our hearts. And may God give us all much joy through 2015.

With my best wishes – James.

Rector’s Letter – December 2014

Dear friends

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all who made our Mission week so touching and powerful. I was so proud – in the right sense – of St. John’s and St. Andrew’s. read on

Richard Borgonon – The Bible One to One

Richard Borgonon speaks about “The Word One to One“, which is a series of studies from John’s gospel aimed at non-Christians interested in finding out more about the bible. Richard is an international insurance executive. The series was created by Richard, and by William Taylor, Rector of St Helens Bishopsgate, London. This talk was for the Bath & Wells Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship, hosted this month by St John’s.

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