Vicar Letter for 3rd July

Church Growth & Joint Benefice Service

Dearly Beloved of God,

Am I allowed to challenge you, and hopefully encourage you? If so, read on…

Are you able to come to our Joint Benefice Service this Sunday (3rd July, 10am) at St Bartholomew’s in Marsden? On June 12th we had a joint Benefice Service at St James and it was great to see people from Shred, St Bartholomew’s and St James worshipping together, but I was surprised there were not more of us, because being a Christian in this world can sometimes be lonely and these chances to be together are so precious. When we come together each Sunday, we share in fellowship and grow in faith. These joint Benefice Services are rare, but when we hold them, we can see how big our community is. When there are more of us, our singing and worship lift everyone’s spirits. I know that St James worship is different to Shred, and different to St Bartholomew’s… but we are a Benefice in order to benefit from being part of something bigger. The service begins at 10am will last 1 hour and there will be cake and drinks in the church hall afterwards (just like we did in St James on the 12th June.)

Also, we are also holding our Church Growth Course (11am to 3pm). You may remember that I am the Interim Vicar, and there is hope that the Interim period will be extended for another three years (to February 2025). This may give you three more years in which Shred, St James and St Bartholomew’s have me available to help build a sustainable and God-inspired future for these churches. This is why I’m here: I was appointed by the Bishop and the PCCs to facilitate change, to enable growth. This gets to the heart of what makes me ‘tick’ / what I care about / what my passion is: Seeing our community grow in faith, and seeing the church grow in number as more and more of the people of Slaithwaite and Marsden respond to God’s love for them.

The Church Growth Course is supported by the PCCs of St James and St Bartholomew’s. We paid for Sara and Val to take part, and the Diocese of Leeds paid for me and Joanna. The four of us want to share the course highlights with you so that you can begin to think about how the church will look in the future, how the church can grow. We want everyone to be heard and for every voice to be valued. We have tried to create a course that give introverts and extroverts a chance to share their thoughts without being embarrassed. Coming to the course gives you a chance to contribute to the vision of the whole church.

I am currently analysing the responses from those who came to the first part of the Church Growth Course. I only have two responses from the Shred Church, so I don’t currently have enough information to discern what the families of Shred hope for their future. However, it is interesting how similar the hopes of St James and St Bartholomew’s are because both communities speak strongly of “being the people of God”.

So, my challenge to you is this: If you consider yourself a “person of God”, do you behave like it?

  • Do you put God first in your life?
  • Do you take time to talk to God? Do you pray every day on your own or with others, formally or informally, in words or in silence?
  • Do you take time to listen to God? Do you read and study the Bible? Do you ask God to enlighten you and help you grow in wisdom and understanding?

My extra challenge to those who go to Shred is this:

  • My purpose as Interim Vicar is to help the people of God grow. What do you want from me, and how will you let me know? We may have another three and a half years together, but if the first two and a half years is anything to go by, it will pass quickly.

Being a person of God is about following Christ, not about expecting Christ to follow us. Being a person of God is about putting God first, not about expecting God to put us first. Being a person of God is about being part of a divine community, not being alone. We are God’s pilgrim people, and this means we’re on a journey of faith. Wherever you are today (in your faith), you share in a journey with all your sisters and brothers as together, we share the joys and challenges of being God’s people.

After all this challenge, may I encourage you. God is love and those who live in love live in God. You were known even before you were born. God has called you by name. There is nowhere you can ever be lost from God, not the furthest reaches of the sea, not the darkest cave, not the depths of despair and not even the grave. You are a treasured child of God, and God who has begun good works in you will complete that which he has started.

May you, and all whom you love know the joy and the peace, the mercy and the grace, the freedom and the love of God in your life today and always.

With love, in Christ, Graeme.