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Annual Parochial Church Meeting - 19th May 2024



On Sunday 29th May, our three churches came together to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost and to hold our parish's Annual Parochial Church Meeting.


Nick, Beth, and Hannah gave the following report on parish life in 2023:


Rector’s APCM Report – 19th May 2024

 

The Reverend Dr Nicholas Peacock introduced the report:

We are approaching the Rector’s report a little differently this year in that we are sharing it between the three incumbents – me, Hannah, and Beth.  We do our best to lead this Team Ministry together, spreading responsibility between us.  We would like to reflect this in how this report is delivered.

 

The main focus of this meeting is to report on what happened in 2023.  It is not possible to talk about everything.  There are plenty of details in our written annual report and our reports from the churches.  Our task this morning is to create a ‘big picture’ by pulling out some highlights from the year.

 

Hannah’s going to talk about our work with children, young people, and families as well as safeguarding.  I’m going to talk about governance along with Godseekers and Rainbow Church.  Beth is going to talk about our community work, Ignite, as well as pastoral work and other work as a ministry team.

 

The Reverend Hannah Thomson (Team Vicar):

We have had a focus on children and families over the past year. Each church has worked to engage young people on Sunday mornings in different ways and as a Parish and group we have tried to engage with children and young people in a variety of ways.

 

We have links and visit a number of our Parish primary schools (Cheam Park Farm Infants and Juniors, Cheam Fields and St Dunstan’s). We lead assemblies and welcome them into our churches at different times across the year. We do this on our own and also in partnership with Sutton Schools Work, a local Christian charity working in the local area.

 

Our Messy Church has continued with 6 services a year - three at St Oswald’s and 3 at Christ Church with St Philip, and alongside these St Albans runs a Light Party and a Family Good Friday Workshop each year. These all see a mixture of regular families and new families attending and we have a growing number of families on our mailing list who receive news about our upcoming events and services. This work has recently grown as we have added in Messy Church Goes Wild which is an outdoor Messy Church service and is scheduled to meet 6 times a year at St Dunstans church.

 

We aim to have places across the group where all ages can engage with God and questions of faith so that children can move onto a new group or service as they age. Youth Group has started which is for children in school year 5 and above to fill the gap we had for older children after Messy Church becomes less engaging for them.

 

Over all of our work with children and young people hangs our safeguarding. Safeguarding is not simply about ticking boxes and filling out paperwork for the sake of it. It is a legal requirement, but more than that it is our spiritual and moral responsibility to look after everyone, especially the most vulnerable in our world. We want to make our activities and services as safe as we can for everyone, adults and children. With this in mind, we have, over the past couple of years, been getting our DBS database up to date and making sure that the correct training is available to people in ways that they can access.  We are holding in person safeguarding training every 6 months across our 5 churches in the group and we are encouraging as many people as possible to take part in this as the more people who are aware of the issues, the safer we can make our churches. We have a safeguarding team and safeguarding leads in each church but it remains the responsibility of all of us to make our churches as safe as they can be for everyone. 

 

The Reverend Dr Nicholas Peacock (Rector):

The first area I am going to discuss is parish governance.  At the APCM last year, we agreed to change our governance structure.  We moved the District Church Councils to become smaller Local Church Groups with a focus on individual church management.  We introduced two new committees under the PCC – the Mission, Worship, and Spirituality Group and the Finance and Buildings Group.  The purpose of these committees is to improve the way in which we share issues and conversations across our three churches and find ways in which we can work better together.

 

In the Mission, Worship, and Spirituality Group, the two priorities have been:

 

1.    To build better networks and communication amongst all our different activities and communities, especially with Messy Church;

2.    To make sure that we have opportunities for spiritual nourishment for all churchgoers.

 

In the Finance and Buildings group, the priorities have been:

 

1.    To improve the management and advertising of our church halls;

2.    To look at long-term strategies for our buildings;

3.    To make our financial reporting more consistent.

 

These changes have only been in place for a year.  We are still finding out how to make them work best and we are still working on these priorities.  They are, however, making us all increasingly aware of our joint responsibility and what we hold in common across St Dunstan’s, St Oswald’s, and St Alban’s.  The more we do together, the better we can be in building our common community of faith.

 

The second area for me to discuss are two new initiatives we started in 2023 – Godseekers and Rainbow Church.

 

Godseekers is aimed at those who are looking for the chance to have open and honest conversations about faith, without being spoon fed trite answers or expecting to find easy solutions to hard questions.  It is a group for those who believe in God and those who do not.  We invited some people to begin a pilot group.  A group of eight has met every couple of months over a simple meal in the church hall at St Dunstan’s. Our conversations have been hugely fulfilling and have covered everything from death, heaven, and hell, to prayer and church language.  This group continues to meet and we are looking to start a new group later in 2024, for which there will be a more open invitation.

 

Rainbow Church was specifically set up for those from the LGBTQIA+ community and its allies.  Its aim is to provide a safe place for people who feel that their sexual identity and gender orientation exclude them from church to share stories.   Sadly, the Church of England has done much to suggest this exclusion, even though there are many churches who are welcoming and affirming.  The conversations we had show that there is a clear need for the church in general – and our churches in particular - to be more visible and explicit in its unambiguous welcome for everyone.  The group has not yet achieved what we had hoped, although there is a need for something and we to pray for the best way forward for us.

 

The Reverend Beth Lewis (Team Vicar):

Before he ascended, Jesus told his disciples to wait, because soon they will be given what they need to share the gospel to the ends of the earth. On this day we remember Pentecost, just 10 days later, when the disciples and followers of Jesus were indeed given everything they needed to share the gospel to the ends of the earth, but also to those around them in their immediate vicinity.

 

Nearly 2000 years later, we too are called to share the gospel, firstly with those we know, in our families, amongst our friends and neighbours, and then the whole of our local community.  Within the group of 5 churches, 3 parishes we are part of, we have been considering what we need in order to share the gospel with the community West Sutton.  We acknowledged that how we have always done things has not reached most people in our community, so we need to do something different, something which connects.  Ignite was the vehicle we used to join people together who have the desire to reach out and try new things. Through Ignite we started many new works as a Group, such as the Circle of Support, warm spaces, quilting classes, community fridge, and community garden, and looked into the creation of an after-school club for children with SEN and their families.  Alongside the Ignite initiatives, Messy Church, the Youth Group, Welcome to the UK course, Coterie, God Seekers and Rainbow church were started. Many of these initiatives are continuing, albeit in different forms as they have evolved since their launch. Ignite must also evolve, it’s fair to say that we’ve reached a bit of a crossroads, and we’re wondering how to take our pioneering forward into this next phase of our collaborative working.

 

Wherever we go next on this journey, we feel sure that God has shown us the profound importance of small steps, taken together, with openness and honesty. Perseverance has also played its part, and we are grateful for the continued commitment of so many of you to the things that we have done together, even when we haven’t been sure of the outcome, or the take-up. And, even if you have nothing directly to do with Ignite, could you pray for our pioneering work which keeps – at its heart – the words of Jesus: ‘I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.’ (John 10:10)

 

When we are ministering and witnessing to the community, we find we are also changed by the community. Within our Ignite initiatives and beyond, we are working with different community and statutory organisations. The Community Fridge was setup with the local NHS GP practices, Orchard Hill College, and Hubub.  The Welcome to the UK Course was run in connection with Community Action Sutton, and our overall parish ministry is thanks to our connections with schools, preschools, uniformed groups, musicians and choirs, sports clubs, the Royal British Legion, and organisations from within our congregations, such as the Mothers Unions, choirs, Sunday Schools and craft clubs. We would like to thank Steph and Melody for their work with Ignite and the many initiatives, and to you all who lead groups, help out, reach out, and share God's love with others.

Ministry on the margins, which is what the Ignite initiatives and community networking is, takes a long time to grow, develop and bear fruit. 

As we follow Jesus' disciples and followers through their first years of building the Church, they realised that only looking outwards can cause issues within the Church itself.  And so we do look to our church communities and recognise the 'ministry on the margins' which take place within our church buildings: this year we conducted 18 funerals and 10  burials of ashes, and we now spend a moment to give thanks for each person these statistics represent. PAUSE

As well as weeping with those who weep, we are called to rejoice with those who are rejoicing, and this year we rejoiced.  in the baptism of 31 babies, children and adults, and the marriages of 4 couples. We give thanks for the love which these statistics represent.

 

We would like to take this opportunity to give thanks for the ministries of Diane, Derek, and Francesca; and all of you who steward, and are of help in any way with the  delivery of these services. Whilst at our services we see the majority of our church family, we recognise that for many it is now too difficult to leave their homes for worship, and we endeavour to make pastoral visits, hospital visits and take communion to all who would appreciate it. .We would especially like to thank our SPA, Marianne, and all of you who visit our church family at home, for your compassion and service.

 

The Reverend Dr Nicholas Peacock concluded the report:

There is our big picture of what 2023 looked like in Cheam Parish.  These continue to be challenging times not just for our churches, but churches in general.  Covid has a huge impact which we are still struggling to recover from.  The place of faith in society continues to decline.  We are all, however, committed to doing the best we can, especially in looking for different ways to build new connections.  This report shows this commitment, not just from our fantastic ministry team, but from many others as well.

 

On behalf of the ministry team, I would like to thank everybody who has played a part in our parish life, be that big or small.  I cannot name you all, but a deep felt thank you.  I would, however, like to acknowledge and thank those who are stepping down from roles in the parish – Lucy Brice (PCC member and secretary), Jo McCandlish (churchwarden), Cecilia Bocks (PCC member).  In music, we have recently said goodbye to Mark Hopper, organist at St Alban’s, and we will be saying goodbye to Roger Brice, Director of Music at St Dunstan’s, in June.

 

 

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