Some years ago, in my last parish, I got myself into a little hot water when I started saying that we needed to be less of a club and more of a church. It was a provocative statement and was calculated to get a reaction. Churches are not clubs of the like-minded. Sometimes it can seem as though they are.
Not so St Mary’s Battersea. For a start, we are not a settled community. People come and go all the time; it’s the nature of Battersea life. That means the way welcome has become attuned to the comings and goings. I’m struck by the number of people who find themselves telling me how welcome they have been made to feel. Equally, when you sit in church and see all those boards on the front of the gallery, it is hard to ignore the history of generous service to our neighbours and parishioners. We are a church with a visible history of mission.
But there’s more to being a missionary church than welcoming people and works of generous support. From the earliest days of Christianity, the Holy Spirit has inspired and urged men and women to take the good news of Jesus Christ out, beyond the confines of the believing community and into the wider world. We gather to worship God and build up our shared faith; we go out “to live and work to God’s praise and glory.”
In the coming weeks and months, this will become more apparent. Here are just a few reasons why:
- Summer in the Square: This is much more than a church fair or a community party; it’s an opportunity for St Mary’s to be seen promoting community cohesion, bringing people together across the wide diversity of class, culture, race and wealth in our neighbourhood and a celebration of community activity and support that goes on through local charities and community groups. You can find out more at summerinthesquare.co.uk – but most of all please do come along and join in by volunteering to help.
- Hymns and Pimm’s: This charitable fundraising service on Sunday 30th September at 11am will also be a faith sharing opportunity. We warmly invite members of the congregation to choose a favourite hymn – one that has a special meaning for you – and to say a few words (or be interviewed) in the service about why it is important to you. Please – this is an opportunity to invite your friends and neighbours to St Mary’s for a service. There will be familiar hymns and Pimm’s after the service. If you would like to suggest a hymn, please email Morven McDonald ([email protected]) or Simon. We shall be fundraising for the ESOL Classes at the Katherine Low Settlement and the charity Over the Wall, which provides activity camps for children living with serious health challenges.
- Sacred Heart Parish Mission: Our Catholic brothers and sisters are having a parish mission in October as part of their 125th anniversary celebrations. We are warmly invited to join them for many of the events in that week. Two of the events will be at St Mary’s – a Taizé service at St Mary’s on Wednesday 10th October at 7pm and a special Choral Evensong service on Sunday 14th October at 6pm. More details on a separate article in this newsletter
- Community Organising and the Common Good: Having welcomed Revd. Aaron Kennedy to the Parish, he begins his community development work in earnest this month. Aaron is intending to use some of the techniques of community organising to develop our community work and would like to introduce this idea to us at a special public meeting on Tuesday 25th September at 7pm. Look out for more details on the parish website and in the weekly newsletters.
- Using the Blessing of Financial Resources: St Mary’s is very blessed by having significant reserves and investments to call upon. Having done some excellent work in stabilising the annual finances over the past years, the Finance Working Group are now taking a good look at our investments and reserves, asking the question about what we should keep and invest for the future and what we should use to develop the mission of our church in the present. This has been made more significant by the receipt of a very large bequest of at least £468,000 from the late Dr. John Hughes CBE. John was very committed to seeing money used to promote the work of the church, rather than being used to maintain fabric. We have a wonderful opportunity to honour that commitment and the man by using some of our funds to start new work and to develop new mission ventures both within and beyond St Mary’s.
A quote I often use about mission reminds us of what the church is. “It’s not the Church of God that has a mission in the world; it’s the God of mission who has a church in the world.” We are going to live up to that calling to be the mission of God in our locality.