A statement read at all of the services in the three worship centres on 14th December 2014
Father Shaun has asked that the following announcement is made in all of the worship centres today, regarding a change to the pattern of Sunday Services that take effect in January. He would like to make it clear that this decision wasn’t taken lightly, and was made after consultation with the ministry team, the PCC, and others in the parish. This isn’t change for the sake of change, and most certainly is not based on any argument that suggests ‘we have too many Eucharists on a Sunday’. We know that the Eucharist, Holy Communion, is central to the prayer life and spirituality of this parish. But the celebration of the Eucharist is dependent upon having a priest available, and the reality is that we are a one priest parish. Therefore we have to plan accordingly. As things stand, Father Shaun is not able to fulfil all of the Communion Services in the parish if another priest is not available. Services of Communion by Extension are not a solution to the problem.
Everyone is most grateful to Reverends Eddie and Arthur for their ongoing ministry in the parish. But with due respect to them, we cannot make realistic and sustainable plans that are dependent upon our retired clergy, plus it’s not right or fair to them to consider doing so. Nor can we rely on the fact that we will have a priest curate from summer 2016, because we are still 18 months from that point, and Rie will only be with us for a finite amount of time.
Then there is the bigger picture. We only need to look around our congregations to see the gaps in the pews and the gaps in the age profiles in the various services that we offer across the parish as a whole. We know that we can pack our worship centres on bespoke occasions, but what about the regular occasions? Whilst the Eucharist is always the place to where we should be leading people, it’s not always the right starting point for that journey. So, what can we do to make all our services more appealing to a wider spread of people that will encourage and enable them to become part of a regular worshipping community?
Come January, the pattern of services at St John Baptist parish church will remain the same, but this doesn’t mean that we’re not looking at the services here. After having informal conversations with some of the uniformed group leaders across the parish, there is a general consensus that the monthly Parade Services aren’t working as well as they could or should. What can be done to address this, to make Parades more appealing to the young people and their families, enabling the young people to be involved in the creation and leading of such services?
Then there is the 6.30pm Eucharist on the fourth Sunday of the month. Congregation numbers at this service are much lower than those at Evensong. Is this service fulfilling a need in the parish or is there an opportunity to use this time to offer something different and more appealing?
Father Shaun remains a strong advocate of finding opportunities to bring together the three worshipping communities more often as a Parish family. But he is keen to stress that this must never be seen as downplaying the roles of three individual worship centres and their worship communities.
He understands and values their individuality and their important presence in their immediate localities. These are real strengths to be developed. But within this is an ongoing need to rediscover and cherish our corporate parish identity. He would like to explore how we can use a fifth Sunday in the month to have a single act of worship in the parish, with each worship centre taking its turn to be the host, and for all the worship centres to make a real effort to support this and come together in prayer, worship and fellowship.
With regard to St Martin’s and St Peter’s Chapels: from January there will be two Eucharistic and two non-Eucharistic services in both places each month. At St Peter’s the Eucharist will be celebrated on the first and fourth Sundays, and at St Martin’s the Eucharist will be celebrated on the second and third Sundays, with a non-Eucharist celebration in both places on the other Sundays. The times of the services will not change. Revered Arthur has kindly agreed to make himself available on the first Sunday of each month at St Peter’s, and Revered Eddie on the third Sunday at St Martin’s. Having a regular Sunday is better for both of them. Father Shaun will be at St Martin’s on the second Sunday of each month, and at St Peter’s on the fourth Sunday. He hopes to be able to spend more time with the congregations after these services whenever possible. The non-Eucharistic services in the chapels will be led by the other members of the Ministry Team. So you should start to see more of Reverend Pauline, Andrea, Joyce, Anne and Jim during the course of the year, and also our new curate Reverend Rie when she arrives next July.
All of this means that the parish will offer three Communion services on the first, third and fourth Sundays of the month, and two on the second Sunday of the month. This provides for plenty of choice, and a good mix of Common Worship and Book of Common Prayer services throughout the parish. On a practical level the new pattern of services allows Father Shaun to fulfil all of the Eucharistic commitments in the parish when another priest is not available. On a pastoral and spiritual level it provides new opportunities for worship to become more all-age, family friendly, and enables the Sunday Schools to become part of their main congregation, especially with regard to the non-Eucharistic services. From a legal perspective the parish is fulfilling its obligation to provide the Eucharist every Sunday.
If transport is an issue for anyone wishing to attend a service anywhere in the parish, please speak to a member of the ministry team or to a Church Warden or Deputy Warden. We should always be able to provide transport and support.
Father Shaun, the ministry team and the PCC understand that some of you may find this decision difficult to take in. Please speak to one of us if this is the case. As was said earlier, this is not ‘change for the sake of change’, and we hope that you understand the genuine reasons behind the decision. As everyone’s thoughts and ideas that are appearing on the parish trees begin to be pulled together, we hope that you are also able to see that this is part of a much bigger picture for the parish. May we continue to seek God’s and each other’s help to enable us to become more effective in our service of God and in our mission, both individually as disciples of Jesus, and corporately as a parish, the Body of Christ.