April 24, 2022

Canon Simon Butler addresses the Annual Meeting

As part of St Mary’s Annual Church Meeting, our Vicar took the opportunity to reflect on the life of St Mary’s Church in the past year, and to set out…

As part of St Mary’s Annual Church Meeting, our Vicar took the opportunity to reflect on the life of St Mary’s Church in the past year, and to set out our priorities and challenges. This is something different from the formality of the Annual Report (which you can explore here), something that is made clear by the way it took the place of a sermon in the 11am Parish Eucharist on the day of the meeting.

In his talk, Simon addressed three post-pandemic challenges – and opportunities – St Mary’s is facing. He spoke of the weariness that is part of the ‘background noise’ of life in the post-Covid era, made worse by some of the big national and international challenges. He reflected on the need to focus on relationships at St Mary’s, and to find a pace of church life and church programs that don’t add further burdens, but provide ways of growing in gentleness.

The second challenge Simon spoke about was finances. St Mary’s has weathered the storm of Covid well, chiefly thanks to some wide investment decisions made by our Funding and Finance Committee. But there is an underlying challenge about giving, and he observed that the pandemic had turned our thoughts away from encouraging regular stewardship. This was something to be addressed in the coming months, beginning with a focus in May on inviting newer church members, and those who do not give regularly, to consider doing so.

The final challenge Simon reflected on was prayer and worship, and particularly the way in which the ‘informal formality’ of our worship at St Mary’s – much valued by our members – doesn’t always help us to pray in our own words or to share our faith with others naturally or comfortably. This was something the Church Council had been discussing recently. Simon observed that the introduction of some modest increased informality in worship- such as encouraging story-telling/testimony from church members – would perhaps help us to feel more comfortable about speaking to God and about God. The experience of online worship during the teeth of the lockdowns had revealed the way we can still be church and be less formal in the ways we express our prayer and worship.

Simon also took the opportunity to reflect on his own future, as he prepares to take a period of study leave in the autumn. Having served for over 10 years, he would be seeking to discern the will of God for his future during that time, whether to remain at St Mary’s or to seek a new post. He encouraged St Mary’s to do the same in his absence, to reflect on whether it believes it needs something different from its Vicar, and whether Simon is the right person for the coming years of church life. This sort of mature conversation was appropriate and necessary for the sake of both the vocation of the church and his own ministerial direction.

The address concluded with thanks to the whole church, but special mention was made of the retiring Vicar’s Warden, Sheila Boothe, the first person of Global Majority Heritage to have served as a Warden at St Mary’s. Later in the meeting Sheila spoke of the privilege of serving as Warden for three years, and the church thanked her with applause and a gift voucher.

You can read the full text of Simon’s Annual Address here.

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