Thursday 29 March 2012

Here's my Rector's report for the AGM 2012:

Rector's Report 2012

Annual Parochial Church Meeting 2012

Plusses - It's been an exciting year with many great highlights!  Here are just a few:

St Matthew's is visibly growing. I know there are more people at our ten o'clock services because Liz and I have to consecrate bread and wine for them all! It's been encouraging that so many families and children are part of that growth. I hope you are as inspired as I am to see all the kids come flocking forward when it's time for our Children's Church Spot.

In no small part this is due to Liz Burley's brilliant work. Messy Church and Blue Coat children's clubs have been hugely enjoyable (see Liz's own report), but best of all was the amazing (and exhausting) Holiday Club last summer. We are building up momentum! People who have enjoyed Messiness in all its forms are trying out things like the Crib Service, Mothering Sunday, Alpha…

Our growth has been in quality as well as quantity: there is an atmosphere among us combining awe in God's presence, joyful expectation and love for one another which bodes well for the future. We have launched our year of discipleship and people are clearly up for the challenge, if your responses to the Lent course and sermon series are anything to go by.

Youth is another growth area. Lee – what can I say? He's a one-off, isn't he? Thanks to Lee we've seen Youth Church start up on Sunday mornings and lots of engagement with Blue Coat students. Urban Spirit is really taking off following the changes made last year. The Faithworks Team has also been running a Night CafĂ© and are now attracting 40 or so completely unchurched kids on Friday evenings to the St Matthew's Centre.

The Centre itself has held up remarkably well financially in these recessionary times. Adrian has put in a brilliant performance in managing and marketing. Its finances, and those of the church as a whole, have done much better than I expected in this climate. Huge thanks to all of you who give so generously and enable it all to happen.

Minuses – Of course there have also been some problem areas:

We have lost some highly valued members who have died or become too frail to get to church. Although it's not easy to pick out individuals, we greatly regret the passing of Martin Barker who has done so much for us with so much enthusiasm. And we need to keep praying for our former warden Margaret Eddowes.

The theft of two lots of lead from the church roof followed by copper from the Centre roof has cost huge amounts of time and effort from people who are already stretched - not to mention money! It was a blow to be refused a grant from English Heritage to help us with the roof. This led to the stalling of the whole re-ordering project while we tried to sort out where that left us. The governance of Blue Coat is still in a temporary structure and we need to use what influence we can to make sure our links with the school are developed. And we still have too much of the work of running the church left to too few people.
The Future!

The Truscott report is going to be a major part of our future. We need to overhaul our structures and communications so that we can direct our talents and energy to bringing in the kingdom of God, not just to sorting out crises. I'll be talking about this from Acts 6 on AGM Sunday, looking at how the early church really grew when the leaders were able to delegate management tasks and focus on vision, prayer and teaching. We have an excellent Task Force who are making a great start on implementing the report.

I think we'll see a growing sense of engagement with God and personal spiritual progress as we continue working through our Year of Discipleship. I'm particularly looking forward to the Weekend Away in October. I think it will be a milestone for many of us. We will also need to give disciples real responsibility if they are to mature, so we must aim to grow leaders during the year ahead.

Progress on re-ordering this year will depend on whether we can attract a grant from English Heritage this time around. Please keep this in your prayers!

Further ahead, we must look outwards and seek fresh vision how to be the Borough Church that has a ministry to Walsall as a whole. We need to make sure that our mission is properly resourced and funded: the growth we are seeing isn't there by accident, it's there because we have invested in it, through the Centre, through the Family and Children's Worker and through Lee. Some of their funding will be coming off stream soon – let's make sure we channel in new funds to support growth. This means we will have to learn the art of visionary budgeting! What we must not do is to shrink because we don't believe in what we are doing enough to pay for it properly.

I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit is moving at St Matthew's. Brothers and sisters, let's ask God for more and let's prepare to grow! God bless you in the 12 months ahead, and God bless St Matthew's and continue to build us up.

With love in Christ,