Rector’s Letter, December 2015
Dear Friends in St Mary’s congregation,
A few weeks ago I identified a need to be able to ‘speak’ to you all, not just in sermons or ‘the Notices’, but on a regular basis to share a bit of my thinking about the life of the church, and perhaps to explain some of the changes you will have noticed. I’ve finally got round to it!
I‘ve been here for about 5 months now; when I came, I didn’t intend to introduce or suggest a lot of changes in my first year, but to get a feel for the place, and listen to you all. However, despite that intention, certain things turned out to feel important and rather urgent. One of these was to show that we value the choir, and make sure that its members, when they help lead our worship on the First, Third and Fifth Sundays of the month, are comfortably seated, with plenty of room for books and music to be put down without their having to reach to the floor, or be in danger of dropping things. I was impressed from the time of my Induction onwards, with the congregation and choir’s level and volume of singing – much better than many rather tentative Anglican congregations! – and felt that this was related both to having the choir (or Music Group, on Fourth Sundays) close to the congregation, and also to the use of the screen, which encourages the majority of members of the congregation to look-up and sing-out. So, as you will have noticed, we are using the screen regularly now on Sundays at 10 am, and the choir is seated in the North aisle when they are leading, and the Music Group is there on Fourth Sundays. Several of us have considered different options for accommodating them, and we are currently experimenting with having all the North aisle pews at right angles to their previous position so that the musicians can be accommodated at one end, and members of the congregation can sit at the other end; as a bonus, we hope that this means that many more people can see the screen, (despite the pillars, large eagle, etc.). This arrangement makes good use of our already- existing pews and beautiful carved ‘stantions’ (sloping shelves for the books), and has no financial cost . (Yippee!) But it is essentially experimental. If you have any suggestions as to how things might be improved even more, please pass them to me, the churchwardens, or Andrew Gore who heads up our Fabric Committee. In the end, we will have to apply for an official Faculty for whatever re-ordering of the furniture we finally want to decide on. The overall aim should be to make us all feel that we really are worshipping ‘together’ and caring for one another’s needs in worship. Whatever the style of Eucharist, it should express that we are ‘the Lord’s people, round the Lord’s table, on the Lord’s day.’
On the subject of music, I wold like to record my thanks to all the musicians who play and sing for us, and to ask your prayers particularly for the future development and leadership of the Music Group now that Phil Kirkman has left. I am most grateful to Jacqui Burge and David Parry-Smith for continuing to hold it together for the time being.
On the theme of our Eucharist as our main service, it seemed to me, very quickly, that the arrangements for ‘Second Sundays’ weren’t really attractive to members of the congregation (bi-monthly Baptisms alternating with Service of the Word). I have moved Baptisms now to a time-slot at 12 noon, and after 13th December we shall stop having the Service of the Word. Instead, we are going to experiment with holding an All Age Eucharist on Second Sundays. This is definitely meant to be nourishing for ‘all ages’, and not just a ‘children’s service’. Quite a large group of people, ‘of all ages’, including our Readers Duncan and Nicola, are involved in planning these and giving different kinds of input to them. Please give them your support. We shall invite families who have had children baptised to bring them to these services for a rousing ‘welcome’ by the congregation.
Whilst still on the subject of worship, I was asked a few weeks ago about seeing if we could create a more prayerful atmosphere before the 10 am service begins. I think that a warm welcome at the door of the church is essential, especially for newcomers or those who haven’t been for a while, and the friendliness of the congregation is a thing to be cherished. But I agree that it’s also important for people to become inwardly collected before worship. So we are experimenting with sounding a handbell about 4 minutes before the service begins, with whoever is officiating coming in and sitting at the front prayerfully for a while, until the tower bells stop ringing. We hope that others in the congregation will take this lead, and that chatting will give way to prayer. However, as I’ve said, the bells will be ringing, the welcome at the door will not stop, and nor, necessarily, should quiet music. And, of course, some young children may find it hard to be quiet. So we don’t expect complete silence – but at least an atmosphere which reminds us that we’re all here for the important matter of meeting with Christ, as well as each other. I hope you’ll find this helpful.
Well – that’s quite a lot of changes from someone who didn’t intend to make any straight away! I do, however, think it important for me to be here for around a year, and get to know you all much better, before we work together on our next Mission Action Plan for the parish (and Team). As part of getting to know you better, I hope to invite as many members of the Electoral Roll as possible to coffee on Saturday mornings during 2016 – sending invitations to groups chosen purely on initial letters of surnames. My hope is that not only will I get to know you better, but that you all may meet at greater depth some people whose involvement with the church is different from your own (eg. you habitually attend different services). This may make a good base for coming up with a Mission Action Plan which expresses a vision shared by all of us.
Finally, I am now able to tell you the *good news* that from the end of June/beginning of July 2016 we shouls have a curate. Nicola Bown is to be ordained Deacon at Petertide, and will come to join us with her husband and two sons. Nicola, who has been training on the Eastern Region Ministerial Training Course based in Cambridge, is also currently a lecturer in English Literature and History of Art at Birkbeck College, the college of London University which teaches students in the evenings. The family has already visited St Mary’s once, in September, ‘on the quiet’. They hope to come again soon so Nicola can be introduced to you properly. I’m sure you’ll give her and the family a lovely welcome. The diocese, meanwhile, is looking for a home for them in Linton.
With my very best wishes, and prayers for a joyful Christmas for you all,
Introducing St. Mary’s…
St. Mary’s is a vibrant Anglican Church at the heart of the community in Linton. The church has been established here for more than 800 years – and aims to be a place where people can be warmly welcomed and encounter God in the 21st-century…
As a family, we embrace a wide variety of church traditions. We take delight in our Anglican heritage, recognising that it provides a useful framework for developing a deep and well-rounded spirituality. But most importantly, we are a mission-shaped church; constantly seeking to present the Christian faith in ways that are meaningful and accessible for all who worship here.
We believe that God is at work in Linton and our task is to catch a glimpse of what he is doing – and then try to follow him in our mission and ministry. We value space and time to pray and reflect and encourage the deepening of spirituality for each individual member.