Fresh Start, New Beginnings
It is a long time since I have written a blog, though I have been sending messages of encouragement through ReMarks during lockdown. As we go into the autumn, the reality is that we are going forward into unknown territory in so many areas of our lives, including the life of the church, and as we move forward we must also take with us those positive things that we have learnt from the past 5 months. I hope our autumn sermon series will help us do that as we look at the early church in Acts, and learn from Paul’s teachings under the theme, ‘What can the early church teach us about going where we have not been before?’
So, our Prayer trail outside on Sunday morning entitled ‘Fresh Start, New Beginnings’ created by Hana and The Space seemed so appropriate. I want to thank everyone who contributed their artwork, prayers, and reflections, giving us space to pray and reflect, followed by great fellowship as we picnicked together. God caused the sun to shine upon us bringing 38 people together aged between 3 and 80 plus, to pray for a fresh start and new beginnings. I was so encouraged by the amount of families who came (5), 4 teenagers, and the Bishop of Birkenhead decided to join us as well. This is what he said to me in an email on Sunday afternoon, ‘Hennie, the prayer walk this morning at St. Mark’s was just manna to the soul, being with just such a beautiful diverse church hungry for prayer, joyful in the Lord, and forged through suffering…Isaiah 54 featured prominently this morning and reading this chapter has filled me with hope……..at mum’s funeral [Bishop’s Keith’s mum], I knew I was looking forward to saying goodbye to her in Christian faith, hope and love. This morning was another moment of that same faith, hope and love’.
The Leadership team and PCC are now seeking God’s will and way as we move forward in opening St. Mark’s for Sunday, and weekly worship. Since July, we have been open, following strict Government and Church of England Guidelines, and I believe it has been much appreciated – even though some of the guidelines make the gathering of worship slightly different! One Sunday in August, though when we could not sing, we had a lot of clapping and dancing which was also ‘manna to my soul’ – we worship in so many different ways. Having said that, we can now have organists, choirs, and worship bands playing and singing, so we are also discerning our way through this in the next few weeks; as well as how we can continue to make the services accessible to those who, for whatever reason, cannot physically attend Sunday worship.
After much discussion we have decided to remain having joint services throughout September with alternative styles of worship and Holy Communion. Children are welcomed at every service, and have a designated play area at the front of church with loo facilities, as we also discern how to provide kid’s club regularly on a Sunday during the autumn term. Do look at ReMarks for regular updates.
I wonder what scriptures have sustained you throughout this pandemic? Many I am sure, and I know the daily reflections on the Psalms that we made available were again appreciated.
Not surprisingly Isaiah 54 (our Vision verses 2 & 3) has sustained me, and I was overwhelmed when Jill Duff, the Bishop of Lancaster, started her New Wine talks this year on Nehemiah with these same verses – saying she thought they were for the wider church of today. Her teaching on Nehemiah was excellent, which took me back to the remarkable book again, and I found God talking to me through the book of Esther as well. I strongly believe God is calling us to continue to Enlarge our Tent, and during COVID-19 we have started doing this with the church centre, enlarging our Parish Office, and team. The office is looking great and very spacious, and the hall has also had a facelift. I want to thank the many members of the congregation who have been involved in the process of getting this started – I know it hasn’t all been easy and a lot of hard physical work has been needed. I really do appreciate all the time you have given.
Regarding enlarging our admin staff we welcome Helen Munt (soon to be Carr) as PA to the Vicar, and clergy; and Christine Mackay as Parish Secretary and Secretary to the Faith Building Project. She will remain PCC Treasurer and Café Manager.
I am sorry that this Blog has been quite lengthy and informative but I wanted to take this opportunity of updating you all as much as I can in these still uncertain times.
However, I am excited about where God is taking us though we will certainly have not been there before! He will equip us with all that we need as He tells us not to hold back, but rather lengthen our cords and strengthen our stakes. I don’t need to remind you that ‘Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.’ (Ephesians 3: 20-21).