This service was given by Rev Deborah on Sunday 21 January 2018, and launched our Year of Mission.
Everything was perfect. The perfect day. The guests dressed up to the nines, the ceremony, the food – until the wine ran out. Disaster!
Our gospel reading is one that we are familiar with. Jesus changes water into wine at a village in Cana. When Mary says, “They’re just about out of wine.” Jesus said, ‘Is that any of our business, Mother—yours or mine? This isn’t my time. Don’t push me.’ But Jesus orders the servants to fill the pots to the brim with water, to take their pitchers and give them to the steward.
‘Everybody I know begins with their finest wines and after the guests have had their fill brings in the cheap stuff. But you’ve saved the best till now!’ the steward says to the bridegroom.
As I was preparing for this service two words were prominent – abundance and expectation.
The abundance and generosity of God in changing the water into wine, plain ordinary water into something extraordinary, rich, full bodied wine – not just a small amount but six wine jars, each 20-30 gallons filled to the brim. Not just ordinary wine, but the best. Jesus power and glory breaking out into an everyday life situation.
Expectation – In this first act of Jesus ministry, Mary, his mother is there. In her heart of hearts, she knows that Jesus could change the situation. It is her urging that initiates Jesus’ action. Jesus, although her son, was also the son of God. That expectation was so great that she said to the servants ‘just do what he asks’.
Our revelation reading pushes that sense of expectation even further to that of the expectation of Christ’s death and resurrection meaning that we are forgiven and have been given new clothing to wear and the expectation of Christ, married the to the bride, the church.
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come and his bride has made herself ready.
8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”
Abundance and expectation. Two words that mean so much. Abundance is from the Latin meaning overflowing. It is not just having enough, but having plenty, generosity beyond measure, plenteousness, lavishness, bountifulness to name but a few synonyms.
As you know, last year was our year of spiritual growth a year focusing specifically to deepen our relationship with God through enhancing our current forms of worship and prayer, and creating more opportunities to increase our spirituality and strengthen our faith. In essence our aim was to live our lives being rooted and built up in Christ Jesus based on the text
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness’. Colossians 2:6-7
Looking back over the year God’s generosity has been abundant in both what we have been able to provide and in people’s response, particularly with regards to spiritual growth.
- We have offered a range of different types of worship both traditional worship and ‘Fresh expressions’.
- Messy Church based at St. George’s is thriving. We regularly have approx. 20 children and 20 adults plus our volunteers with a core group of regulars. This tends to cater for children and families not familiar with church. It was good to see Messy Church so involved in the St. George’s Day Parade.
- Espresso Church has been going for several years now. Developed by churches together and led by Andy and Mark, Espresso church meets at Costa in Prestwich. Using modern forms of worship, there is usually a speaker and prayers.
- We have been exploring ways to re-engage those who have been baptised through worship for the very young. ‘Social Sunday’ provides a themed social occasion geared specifically to children and young families, to which we personally invite all those recently baptised. It involves a simple act of worship including a Bible story/short talk on the theme, a song and prayer. We have now had two social Sundays – a teddy bears’ picnic where the theme was the lost sheep, a sparkle party where the theme was Jesus is the light of the world. There have been approx. 17 children and 18 adults at these events.
- Our Lent course explored prayer creatively through poetry, music, art, meditation and Tai Chi. It was generally well attended, and people commented positively on the opportunity to pray in different ways.
- Dedication Week offered an opportunity to pray three times a day in church, with church being open for morning prayer as usual, at lunchtime for an hour with Geoff providing music to help us with our prayer and in the evenings where we explored mission and prayer, Franciscan spirituality, meditation and prayer and prayer and the community. The week started with ‘Songs of Praise’ and culminated in our 9.45 service being led by Archdeacon David.
- The parish retreat had the theme of ‘growing in prayer and spirituality’. Feedback from the parish retreat was very good with people commenting how useful it was to look at different ways of praying. This was so successful that we were fully booked for next year in October!
- This year Harvest ran over the weekend with a harvest of talents. Members of the congregation brought in items to reflect their skills and talents which were displayed, in church. In addition, prayer blankets, banners, chasubles and various church items were displayed. Church was opened during the Saturday an hour either side of the Harvest lunch and on Sunday. There was a good response both in terms of items shared and in those attending, particularly on the Saturday.
- We have reviewed worship/music in church which has resulted in a team planning the music, the opportunity for members of the congregation to suggest hymns, Maggie’s Music Makers hasbeen established to help lead the Sunday morning worship under the tutelage of Carol P. Tom and Misha have supported us with our music and we have also occasionally had the accompaniment of a guitar and drums.
- Weekly stations of the cross have been and are an essential part our journey through Lent. This was extended last year by having stations of the cross in Heaton Park and taking stations of the cross to Parrenthorn High School – which was so successful that we have been asked to come again this year.
- Our prayer blanket ministry has gone from strength to strength. As a result of a deanery synod meeting it was decided that we would start our own prayer blanket project as both a means of mission and as a means of developing our prayer life. To date we have given out 150 prayer blankets to people from Prestwich and around the UK. Some of the blankets have gone worldwide, including Nigeria and Spain. The response from the recipients of the blankets has been amazing – with letters, cards and text of thanks.
- The establishment of a monthly prayer calendar and Our Daily Bread has been a means by which we can develop our prayer life and Bible reading more fully. Supported by our integrated social media including our church app, we are able to share this to a wider audience.
- Our Christingle services, ten in all, have been the opportunity both to share our faith and introduce prayer and worship to those who may not go to church. A total of 149 adults and 180 children heard the good news about Jesus this way.
- Our average attendance at this service is 76 (children and adults) with a range of 52-82, at the 8.00pm service the average is 8 and on Wednesday morning is 23 (with a range of 16-30). Our Christmas statistics show that over the special Christmas services we have interacted with 1650 people. (Some of those have been at more than one service).
- Sue Walker, as part of her ordination training has taken on the role of serving, lay assisting and preaching and will be our new curate in July, after ordination. Andrew Ginn is exploring ordination. Carol O was recommissioned in her role as ALM for prayer and has been accepted on an ALM worship module to supplement her current role as ALM in prayer. We have also had some new lay assistants.
- As a result of occasional offices (45 baptisms, 7 weddings and 28 funerals) we have had 3127 coming through church.
- In terms of spirituality and school we lead weekly assemblies at St. Margaret’s, monthly assemblies at Heaton Park and our prayer and reflection group has grown so much that we now have two groups, (The cynic in me says that the children would rather be indoors than out in the cold weather!)
- We have received a letter of commendation for our work in reaching out to others with our work based on the premise, ‘if you don’t come to us, we will come to you.’
- Of course, this doesn’t include the regular acts of worship we have, special liturgical services, Peregrine and meditation, morning prayer, Bible fellowship services of wholeness, healing and wellbeing. It also doesn’t include all the many other things that have happened in church this year bearing in mind that I have tried to focus on spirituality.
There are still many things to develop, not least being our financial giving, but as you can see, God has blessed us abundantly throughout the year.
But what about expectation, that expectation that Mary had of Jesus in terms of what he could do? Expectation – a strong belief that something will happen, from the Latin meaning ‘an awaiting’. Anticipating with confidence of fulfilment.
But what are our expectations for this year, our year of mission? During this year we hope to deepen our understanding of mission and what it means in today’s society. The church of England has five marks of mission:
- To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
- To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
- To respond to human need by loving service
- To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation
- To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
Put more simply – to tell, to teach, to tend, to transform and to treasure (the earth).
We hope to find opportunities to share our faith both as individuals and as a church.
We want to encourage more children, young people and families in their journey of faith.
And, of course, we would like to see a growth in numbers and involvement in the community.
So how are we going to go about this? The leaflets* that you were given this morning when you came in, as well as thanking you all for all that you do for St. Margaret’s and St. George’s offers some ideas to help us on our way to be a missional people.
- Social events to welcome new people
- Explore different ways and means of mission especially for young people and young adults.
- Week of Mission – A school’s event held in church to explore our Christian faith – a ‘Jesus Fest’.
- Invite a range of people to visit during the year of mission. We have already engaged Tear Fund, Church Army and the Children’s Society in coming to speak to us. I am awaiting responses from Leprosy Mission, Christians Against Poverty and Open Doors, which support Christians persecuted for their faith.
- Increased involvement in schools e.g. Jesus Festival, Stations of the Cross to Parrenthorn etc.
- During Staycation to bring a friend.
- An international theme for Harvest weekend.
- Lent – forty acts of kindness challenge www.40acts.org.uk
- Explore mission using integrated social media
- To look at how we can be missional through community and Christmas events
- Encourage personal sharing of our faith.
To start our year of mission I have a very simple way in which we can share our faith. I don’t know if you remember, but last New year I gave everyone in church that day a little pack for the New Year – like this, with various items in.
A Gift for You.
- A penny so that you will never be broke.
- A marble for those days when you think that you have lost yours!
- Elastic to help you stretch beyond your current limits.
- An eraser so that you know God’s full forgiveness.
- String to hold it altogether when things seem to be falling apart.
- A safety pin to help with unseen emergencies.
- A T-light so that you are not afraid in the darkness.
- A sweet so that you know that someone cares for you.
- God’s blessing as He walks alongside you this year.
There are some at the back of church. This year, please take one and give it to someone you know. Even if all you say is ‘our crazy vicar has asked us to give out these packs for the new year to someone you know.’ Even if the conversation doesn’t go any further, they will know that you go to church, and they are thought of and have been prayed for. Many thanks to the PCC who came around to the vicarage thinking they were getting supper, but in fact had to work for it by making these packs!
The changing of the water into wine tells us that God can and does change the ordinary into the extra ordinary, with abundance. Let us thank God for his abundance to us during the past year, our year of spiritual growth but let us also look with expectation for God’s abundant provision this year, our year of mission. May we play our part in bringing God’s kingdom to this part of Prestwich.
*If you missed the Year of Mission leaflet, you can download on here: 2018 Year of Mission Leaflet