How would you describe St. Anne’s Church? Maybe you’re a regular member of the congregation, and maybe you’re not, but what word would you choose to convey your main impression of St. Anne’s Church? I have no doubt that if I asked each of you individually I would get different answers.
I got one answer the other day – as one person described St. Anne’s as a “dead church”. A dead church? What do you make of that assessment? Do you agree? Because, let me tell you something … I most certainly do not! I asked them one simple question – “Where are you looking?”
I believe (I have believed since before I even came to this parish) that God has plans for St. Anne’s Church. I believe that God is at work. Not only do I believe that St. Anne’s church can, and will, grow … but I believe it is growing already. God is at work.
When I arrived in this parish it was a rarity to find children (apart from those attending a baptism) attending a Sunday service, now we regularly have a handful of families join us for JAM and Tiddlywinks. God is at work.
Since I have been here we have started “Open the Book” a way of sharing the Bible with children. Thanks to good relationships that were built up before my time, we now regularly take this into schools to share the good news with children – quite literally reaching 100’s of children every month. God is at work.
Only a few years ago St. Anne’s Church had limited contact with teenagers in our parish, now approximately a dozen teenagers join us every week and engage with discussion about the Christian faith. God is at work.
I was told before I arrived that the most heartfelt prayer of St. Anne’s Church was to reach out with the Good News of Jesus to young families in our parish. Now we have a monthly Church service, called “Messy Church”, which has, in only one year, been attended by nearly 60 families, and approximately 112 individual children – many of which now regularly attend every month. God is at work.
I could go on. God was at work here long before I arrived. He has faithfully been at work while I am here, and I have no doubt whatsoever that he will continue to work once I’ve left. To quote the prophet Jeremiah’s words (from a different context, but I’m sure God would declare it to us too)
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
That isn’t to say there isn’t more work to do. It doesn’t deny that this church, just like ever other church within our changing culture, will look very different in 20-30 years time. There are bits of St. Anne’s church that may have to adapt in order to make the relevance of the Gospel clear and accessible to our parish – but make no mistake, this church is very much alive!
GOD IS AT WORK!
If you’re part of our congregation, make sure you look and see what God is up to. Make sure you pray and see what role God is calling you to take in his plans.
And if you don’t regularly join us, I call you to come and look what God is up to as well. He calls you too.
God bless you all,
(This was my article for the November magazine – God bless)