The Rector

   THE RECTOR

(Preface to the Annual Report for 2017)

In 2017 I celebrated my 50th birthday  and pondered much one of the encounters between Jesus and the Pharisees in St. John’s Gospel. Responding to Jesus’ claim that Abraham rejoiced to see his day they said, ‘thou art not yet fifty years old and hast thou seen Abraham?’  They doubted both his divinity and his wisdom and concluded that he was mad. Well, I certainly make no claim to divinity, and whilst acknowledging my need of greater wisdom I trust I am not yet mad.  The point is a serious one for ordained ministry in smaller parishes is notoriously isolating, confidence-sapping and associated with a high incidence of breakdown.  That has probably always been the case but more so in an age where the conventional  markers of success  are particularly elusive.   A parish priest in the 21st century has to contend not only with public apathy but with widespread ignorance as to one’s purpose and usefulness in society.  These things gnaw away at the soul so it is essential to have a supportive community and good colleagues both lay and ordained.  Last year saw the strengthening of our ministry team with Derek Lewis joining Garnet Lambert as Churchwarden and Sheila Thomas being licensed as Associate Priest.  With their respective spouses they  have brought energy and commitment that is reinvigorating for the church and for me. At the same time we had to bid farewell to Pete and Jean Steele who have also been a real focus of energy and commitment in recent years. We wish them well in their new home.

The year began on a positive note with the  Confirmations at the Cathedral of Laura Crowe and Stephen Booth. It was a great occasion shared by many from the parish. Subsequently, and in accordance with our policy of preparing younger members for First Communion prior to Confirmation, Joseph Booth was received as a communicant at Easter. We do however have to acknowledge that the sparsity of children and younger people in our midst is a serious concern. It is good that we have a capacity to attract older generations but we must not give up on being a church for all ages.  Alongside the received traditions of worship that we cherish and seek to share it is therefore appropriate  to experiment with more innovative forms including those expressed through contemporary media and technology. Again, the expertise and enthusiasm of newer members is vital as it is something  I certainly cannot do on my own. A start has been made with the refreshing of the website,  the opening of a church Facebook account and regular postings in the press.  It has been good to see photographs and read reports of occasions such as the All Souls’ Commemoration, the Advent Service for World Peace, the dedication by Bishop Nicholas of the new toilet at All Saints’ and the blessing of the shoeboxes collected for Operation Christmas Child. The  Pear Tree Fellowship and the monthly lunches have also been well publicised and it is my hope that these organisations and activities will grow to become a major part of our outreach into the community.  As it is our engagement with the parish and beyond grew in 2017 with a number of social and fundraising events including concerts, quizzes and the pre-Christmas  singalong at All Saints. 

A continuing concern is the widening gap between budgeted income and expenditure. By November 2017 when stewardship letters were sent to Electoral Roll members this stood at approximately £180 per week.  With a few exceptions the response to the letters was not what we hoped for. The deficit is only marginally reduced and although our numbers have dipped of late, a committed membership of the size that we have should be able to manage the current budget.  On the plus side the income from the Church Hall has increased considerably and it is hoped that future refurbishment will help us to make the most of our facilities both as a financial asset and as a means of engaging with those who may have few or no links with the church.  In Anglican parochial ministry cultivating those links has often occurred through ministry around baptisms, weddings and funerals. At fourteen, the number of baptisms for the year was modest but not untypical. It fluctuates significantly from year to year whereas church weddings both locally and nationally are becoming an endangered species. We had one in 2017. Funerals and burials of ashes amounted to seventeen and amongst them were several longstanding and faithful members to whom we bade a fond farewell.   The support of other members of the congregation on such occasions is one of the really encouraging aspects of the church in West Parley.   It is at times of sorrow and celebration that the family characteristics of our fellowship are most evident.       

As ever, the outlook for the Church is a challenging one. Of all the good things that happened in 2017 nothing was of an order to subvert the secular view of an organisation in decline. However, as the family of faith our morale should not be determined by worldly fortunes. Whether we are fifty or a hundred and fifty our task is the same; to rejoice in our calling and to give of ourselves in love of God and of our neighbour.  By the grace of God may nothing distract us from this purpose as we continue our journey through 2018.       
Charles Booth                                                                                                                                                        

 


 


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View from the Rectory - March 2018
The Rector

View from the Rectory - February 2018
The Rector

View from the Rectory - December 2017 & January 2018
The Rector