As part of the process of seeking a new appointment I had to summarise what I have learned while at St Matthew's. So, for the benefit of future generations, here is the fruit of my accumulated wisdom:-
• Make good appointments. Our present curate and family and children's worker are brilliant. Our high hopes of new administrator Carrie are being realised too.
• Focus on discipleship. The quality of the Christian life of members of the church is what will tell in the end.
• Build Teams that socialise and pray together.
• Keep people motivated. If the congregation feel good about being Christians and belonging to the church there is little you can't do, under the grace of God.
• Stay solvent. When I arrived at St Matthew's we owed £75,000 in unpaid parish share and the only way we could sort it out was to cut back our investment in ministry. The church really struggled as a result. We are now in a much happier position.
• Promotion is worth the money. The church today must compete in a market place of ideas.
• Links with the community. Our three church schools for example are a rich and fruitful source of contact with families and children.
But in retrospect, those are all very well for the sort of thing you need to put forward in interviews and on CVs but are not actually the main things for me. Those are actually much more personal and spiritual. I think of one or two people (no names - I don't want to embarrass anyone) whom I give communion to. The look of complete devotion and love for the Lord that comes over their faces is awe inspiring. I think of the commitment, the discipleship, the kindness and especially the love that so many at St Matthew's have shared with me. I think of the practical people who show their passion for the Lord in seemingly endless hard work. I think of people in serious pain who just seem to glow with God's lovely presence. I think of behind the scenes people who give incredible caring to others who are struggling, and get no credit at all for it because nobody knows, except that after a long while a little bit of what you do gets back to the vicar... You are wonderful.
This for me is the really important stuff. It's about how to follow Jesus, and I have learned far more about it from St Matthew's than you have from me!
So another big thank you to St Matthew's Walsall - this time for the deeper things...