May 2012

From the Rectory

Address given on 15th April 2012
At the Annual Parochial Church Meeting

There is no sermon as such this morning, as the Annual Parochial Church Meeting follows this Service. Iíd like instead to take the opportunity to say thank you to those many volunteers without whom this Church would cease to function properly. Then reflect a little on last year and look forward to the future. Much of what Iím going to say would normally be said at the Annual Meeting, but as many of you donít usually stay after the Service for that meeting, and I want you to hear what I have to say, Iím saying it now. Thatís no excuse not to stay though.

This Church is run pretty much by volunteers; only two people are paid for their services, the Organist Craig Lawton, and me. Without that large band of faithful volunteers this Church would be at a loss. Who are they - these volunteers? Well, just look around you. Itís you!

Letís think about what happens when you come here for a Service or for a Social event.

Most of you will be greeted at the Church door, usually by William Green the Verger, or by Malcolm Harper or me. If you come immediately before or late, and we are already getting ready ourselves that greeting will have to come at the end of the service.

We are very fortunate to have the ministry of Malcolm. His involvement enriches and enhances our worship and mission, and his willingness to officiate at, or to share services is a tremendous help. Thank you Malcolm, you are a wonderful colleague to share ministry with here at Christ Church. I am also fortunate to be able to count you and your family as friends, we go back a long way.

The Churchwardens prepare the Church for worship and oversee much of what happens here. They also keep an eye on me and make returns annually to the Archdeacon at his request. They unlock, lock up, let people in, put the lights on, and light the candles, switch the audio system on and much, much more. Thank you Alan and Tony; you do a good job.

The Sidesmen give you your books, say hello, and put the books away afterwards. Thank you to all of the Sidesmen.

You settle down in your seat, no doubt appreciate the flowers, every week something fresh, and over Christmas and Easter usually spectacular as was the case this year; a small band, but oh so talented, thank you flower ladies.

Then Craig begins to play the organ, the choir sing, their attendance and dedication I commend to you. They lead us under Craigís direction, and often sing something special which delights all of us. They turn up to sing at weddings and funerals, all unpaid. Itís a big commitment. Thank you.

The lessons are read by a rota of people whose different voices always brings fresh meaning. Intercessions are offered on our behalf. Always varied and the differing styles engage us with the world, its people and especially our local community. Thank you to all of them.

You come for Communion or for other Services of worship. The candles, Communion wafers, wine and altar linen are all prepared. The Altar guild see to that, and our treasurer Gwen purchases what we need, pays the bills and oversees our accounts, wags her finger, and sometimes asks, Ďcan we afford that?í or Ďwe canít afford that you know?í Washing the linen, paying the bills, all of that needs to be done. Thank you everyone.

After the Service tea and coffee and cakes and biscuits are provided, prepared and then cleared away after. Trade Craft and Cake sales are organised, none of it happens by magic, someone has to do it. Thank you if you are one of those who do.

Every week a pew sheet appears, overseen by Peter Greenland and put together each week by someone different. Thank you to them.

Itís a long list, isnít it? Arenít we lucky to have so many willing helpers? Itís all holy work, specialist ministry.

The Church is cleaned, two groups, two small groups, two too small groups. Why not join them? One group cleans the Church and another the kitchen, toilets and lobby. There are so few of you, you are heroes. Thank you for your heroic efforts to keep this building clean.

Each month a magazine appears, people contribute articles, and William Green edits and prints it. People proof read it, others collate and staple it. Thank you, all of you.

Posters are produced by Lizzie Coe, she also wrote our Church History and looks after our growing archive. Many of you will have seen her work on the notice boards, the latest being the one for the Titanic Centenary. Thank you, and also Donald who helps you.

Light bulbs are replaced, cleaning materials bought, the grounds cleared of rubbish and the gardens tended. What you all do is simply amazing, and you go on doing it week after week.

I thank especially members of the PCC, Deanery Synod Representatives, and others who represent us in so many and varied ways throughout the Diocese and in the Church.

Our social calendar, Fetes, Bric-a-Brac and Book sales, Skittles, visits to Breweries, Concerts and Exhibitions continues to engage the Church with the community outside. Just about everyone who comes to Church regularly contributes something. Richard and Maggie provide wonderful food.

The Sunday School leaders work with the children, and Peter and Lynda Gould work with the school helping them with music and helping us at the Family Service.

There have been one or two, who after years of service have had to give up doing some of these things in recent months. We thank them, and look forward to welcoming their replacements. Iíve no doubt God looks kindly on all that you bring to his service. If anyone has been left out of this list of thank yous, forgive me, and consider yourselves well and truly thanked.

If through age or infirmity you think to yourself, Ďwhat do I do, I canít do muchí. Well say your prayers, that is enough. No doubt you have in the past played your part fully. It is because so many have played their part in the past that we are still here today.

So letís think now about last year and what happened. It all seems so far away now. I thank all those who enabled me to take my Sabbatical. There were many of you. It was a one-off opportunity for me and perhaps for you as well, with me out of the way. Two departments in Winchester Diocese are making use of the book I wrote, so the time was put to good use.

The Annual Report contains details of work done to the building, maintenance and so on. But it is the continued worship and ministry of the holy people of God, thatís you, who make Christ Church, Freemantle what it is, a prominent and recognised place for the Community, within the Community. Opening up the Church for others to use for concerts, training courses etc. engages that community directly with this place and keeps it at the centre of things and relevant.

Everything that we do here is open and available to that Community. We exist particularly for those who donít come. We witness on their behalf. It is important that we continue to do that, because, as we know, when they come into crisis they may well look to us for help and support, and we will be here. We will always be here.

Looking to the future, well thatís not so easy to do. Who knows what might come our way. The Liturgy will continue day by day, and I thank Mary and Steve Scott who join me daily for Morning Prayer. We will continue to observe all the holy days. And our social calendar will offer entertainment and fellowship in other ways. We continue to maintain this building as our finances allow and we can all take encouragement from those who continue to come through the door for the first time.

We sadly said good bye to one or two faithful disciples last year. They now have their reward in heaven, and itís good to see new faces come to walk with us into the future, a future which looks good from where I stand: a future with hope, a future with God at the helm. Heíll see us through it all, and more.

So thank you, give yourselves a pat on the back and a well deserved round of applause.

Yours for Christ's sake.