Six years ago there was a riot in Clapham Junction…it was the day I arrived in Battersea. Coincidentally, the same day there was a riot in Croydon…the day I left Croydon!
I certainly don’t think we’ve had a riot or a revolution at St Mary’s in the six years I’ve been your Vicar. But it has – except for one major, unpleasant, unexpected event – a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding time. Thank you for all you have been…so far.
But don’t worry – this is not announcement of my imminent departure, although Tyrone in the process of leaving us at the moment (see elsewhere in the newsletter for details) it does seem like the last couple of years has been a long series of departures: Asi, Peter, Alison, Philip before this last one. I hope to have some good news to share with you about some arrivals before too long!
There is still much I feel I can contribute to the work of God’s Spirit in Battersea through the work of being your Vicar. But I do think I want to lay down a marker about a change of direction and priority that I hope the coming years will see.
For very good reasons, it has been important for me to concentrate on many practical, organisational priorities over the past few years, chiefly on working with our excellent PCC on ensuring our finances are in order and upon getting the Moorings Scheme almost to the point of commencement. Happily, these are both in a very much better place and I am confident that, within the next few months, we shall see both of these areas of church life set fair for the future. I feel I’ve become the Church of England’s expert on river law!
But organisation, moorings and money are not what I was ordained to focus on – and neither did you appoint me to the post to focus on such things – even if they are part of the ministry of the priest in the widest sense. Rather, my passion in mission and building the church of God and it is to those areas – in the coming year – that I hope circumstances will enable me to turn.
A marker of this is the planned Parish Mission, FaithWorks 18, which will take place this time next year, when, with our friends from Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, we hope to re-energise our commitment to the common good in Battersea, while at the same time give a chance for members of St Mary’s to bring friends/guests to a variety of enjoyable events that will offer gentle opportunities to consider the life of faith in Jesus Christ. This is something about which we will hear much more in the coming months, and much of church life in the first two-thirds of next year will be geared towards praying and preparing for such a potentially-renewing event. But I hope this will be something of an opportunity for me to take a step away from being a manager-priest to a mission-priest again.
With the Church Council, we are planning other steps to enable this to happen. More of that in the coming months. So, whether I’m here for the next three years (the minimum time more I plan to be in Battersea) or another 15 years (when I will eventually retire), I hope we can be a church that is not only well-organised and managed, but alive to God in new, exciting and growing ways.