Every January now the Church Council meets for half a day to have a more leisurely and considered discussion of broader issues in the life of the church. We met on Saturday 21st January in the very comfortable setting of the Sacred Heart Church Halls in Trott Street.
Three items were discussed. Part of the reason for meeting at Sacred Heart was to spend a little time with Fr. Gerry, their new Parish Priest, and to consider the idea of sharing in a Parish Mission with our Roman Catholic neighbours in October 2018.
A Parish Mission is an opportunity for a church to focus on its faith and its mission. Sacred Heart are doing that around their 150th Anniversary Celebrations at that time. But the PCC saw the opportunity of joining in a shared Parish Mission as a chance for St Mary’s to renew its faith, to share the good news of Jesus Christ with our neighbours and to focus our efforts on reaching out into our community. The PCC agreed to form a Planning Group to begin the first stages of this project, which would be the major focus of our spiritual life for the next eighteen months and beyond. Simon informed the PCC of the exciting news that the Archbishop of Canterbury had indicated that, subject to his diary, he would very much like to speak as part of the Parish Mission.
For some time now the Church Council has been wishing to explore the ministry of healing and wholeness at St Mary’s and to find a way of introducing such a ministry, in a gentle and sensitive way. In our discussion, ably led by Leslie Spatt, we realised that there were important aspects of this idea that needed to be shared, understood and considered by the whole church before any ministry was introduced. Simon suggested that our Sunday morning sermons in Lent this year could focus on this subject in a number of ways and the PCC asked him to set that idea in motion.
Finally, pews. When setting up the Mission Action Plan in 2015-16, the PCC had been very enthusiastic to explore the possibility of the replacement of the pews with chairs, not only to create a more comfortable space, but also to create a more flexible one, that could possibly generate more income for the church, through concerts, events and lettings. The PCC discussion was therefore an honouring of that commitment to begin to think about the issues.
Unsurprisingly, there were strongly-held views expressed within the PCC and to the PCC by those who wished to see the pews replaced and those who did not. What did become clear in the PCC discussion at the meeting was that the condition of the existing pews was deteriorating and that it was a good moment to explore all the options available, from repair through to wholesale replacement. To that end, with the PCC making clear that absolutely no decision had been made and none would be made without full consultation, it agreed to commission a Feasibility Study and asked Simon to prepare a brief to go to an architect for our next meeting. Simon made it clear that he would remain neutral on the matter throughout.
The PCC also took time to pray and to remember Emma Belak, who had served as a member and Deanery Synod Representative for many years. We left in good heart and in unity.