These incredible words come from one of my favourite hymns now found in New English Praise. It is a great favourite in the States, and I simply love it. Why? Because it is a call to action. It is a call to sharing, proclamation and celebration when we all hear, God willing, servant well done from him whom we are here to serve and not count the cost.
In these pages you will find rehearsed much of what has transpired since our last AGM. I find it amazing to think this is now my second AGM with you. It is timely and appropriate to look back at the successes and enjoy that emotion, while also looking at those things that could have been done more in the vain of “Come Labour on”. Your Mission Action Plan, becoming more “our” action plan is the main reason I chose to come among you as priest, and I re-state that now.
The journey from the “Hall” to the “Church” is full of obstacles at times, yet we see some advancement from time to time, for which we all should be grateful. Yet, obviously, the work has just begun in earnest and it is time that each of us take up our cross and move ahead in the power that comes from the Holy Spirit. It is then the beauty of catholic Anglican tradition becomes not only splendid and inspiring but also contains the call to discipleship that alone produces in us the ability, like Our Lady, to “carry” Christ into the world we live, move and have our being in day by day. Ite missa est.
Nurturing never stops, but one result of such nurturing is the response, which in Christian terms, is making disciples of all nations (Matt 28) – including the “nation of Merton”. Our high calling is just that, to be as Christ to each other, yes, but also to those we have still to meet, greet and share the good news of Christ our Lord. This is what makes “church” different from a social club or learning centre. We have much to learn from our Muslim friends when it comes to being open about our God as known to us in Jesus. Our patron saint, James the Great, is a ready helper for us as our pilgrimage moves forward step by step.
At each Eucharist we are vividly drawn as one body to Taste and see that the Lord is good, Ps 34. Do we have all the answers, of course not, but let us have faith that might even move a mountain, or obstacle, that just might come our way. The final verse says:
What a difference a year makes! If 2015 was an interesting year that started in despondency and anxiety, but ended in excitement and anticipation, then 2016 was an exciting year that started and ended in hope, and progressed through celebration and mission to our wider community – with plenty of hard work, learning, fellowship, and both good and sad things on the way.
Fr Jim’s Licensing to the Parish at the great feast of Epiphany, followed the very next day by the funeral and Requiem Mass of George Green – our oldest regular attender – set the scene for the year; a year of celebration in every sense of the word - of small and great events, secular and liturgical, happy and sad, local and national. We saw more Bishops than you could shake a mitre at and St James is no longer that “well-kept secret half way up Martin Way” (photos in The Bridge, the local Guardian and the Church Times preclude us from being a secret anymore!) but known in the Parish, the Deanery and the Diocese as a place of passion and joy, “The Chuch with the Open Door” and “A place to come, a place to belong.”
It’s true that we still have a long way to go to meet our MAP aim of increasing our congregation by 50% over 5 years but our “House for Duty” Priest in Charge, the Revd. Canon Dr James M Rosenthal – known to all as Fr Jim – is leading us on that journey and many of the small aims and targets have been met or are being progressed. We are all clear that “bums on seats” is not the only, or even the main, criterion for the present, but a healthy church is a growing church and our ethos has always been to reach out into the community, offering more of the joy and blessing of knowing and worshipping God together, to more and more people. This report endeavours to show how we have tried to do that, where we have succeeded and, perhaps, in some cases failed.
The Parochial Church Council is the elected body that makes decisions on behalf of the church on issues about the church. It met formally on five occasions during 2016, with an average level of attendance of 76%, while committees and working groups (made up of PCC members and others from the congregation), met between meetings, and individuals attended a number of Diocesan or Deanery meetings or training sessions – all with feedback to the main body. “Formally” is a relative term; these meetings are focus points for those who have the church’s best interests at heart, and work for it in whatever way they can, meet and discuss the business, the plans and the mission of the church over a glass of wine or cup of tea.
There was a substantial increase in the variety, diversity and opportunities for worship in the year following the interregnum.
Numbers attending our Thursday Mass increased pleasingly; the Healing element was extended to every week – the first Thursday of the month it is a central part of the service while on the other weeks it is an “add-on” after the Mass is ended. Most people stay, and value that element each week. Regulars at the Thursday service were very saddened to hear of the sudden death of Fr Andrew Wakefield who regularly took Thursday services during two interregna and time of clergy sickness for us; St James was well represented at his funeral and in offers of help.
After various different approaches, we settled to a number of additional services in the first week of the month:- Compline on Wednesday evenings, mass or Holy Hour on Friday evenings, and Rosary and Walsingham Prayer Cell on Saturday mornings. There was opportunity for Confession at Easter and Christmas and other times by request. The Chapel was open for private prayer and reflection each day during daylight hours, and prayers left on the noticeboard in the chapel were taken to the healing service and prayed for there. Home Communion was also taken to the sick and housebound by Fr Jim and Mike, ith Simon and Fr Graham able and willing should it be needed..
Attendance at the regular Sunday morning Eucharist increased very slightly, but we are still looking for an attendance of 60, rather than the 40 – 50 we regularly got. Fr Jim brought his own High Anglican stamp to the services and encouraged some different music and less paper to make the services more easily accessible for non-regular attenders, children and those for whom English is not their first language. The message was very clear – we are a diverse community and all are welcome at St James’s.
“Reaching for God,” the monthly Family Services led by Elaine and Lyn, continued with Godly Play stories, “wondering” and free response by the children and adults attending, and enjoyed and valued by the smallish numbers that attend. The other overt message we tried to spread is that children and families are welcome to every service and if children come to any services they will be involved – whether by serving, taking the offertory, reading - and be able to join in some of the simpler and more repetitive settings.
The Feast of Epiphany Eve was an auspicious date for the licensing of Fr Jim to be our Priest in Charge. Celebrating the giving of gifts and the first indication that Jesus was saviour of the whole world, not just the Jewish people, it was a true celebration, led by the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark just the day before he went to Jerusalem with fellow bishops, and attended by people and clergy from local churches and the Ahmaddiya Mosque. Fr Jim seemed to settle in immediately and loved some of the things we did, changed some of the things we did, and added in a whole lot more.
Throughout the year, every opportunity was taken to extend the worship of those already attending St James, and to invite and welcome anyone else who wanted to come – visiting clergy, stray passers-by, people and their pets; all made welcome and to feel that St James might be “A place to come, a place to belong.”
So, the intent in Lent was for everyone to be able to attend and study something, and it started with three services on Ash Wednesday, and continued with two separate weekly Lent groups – one in the evenings, following the Paula Gooder book, “The Joy of the Gospels” and one on Thursdays after Mass, on The Psalms, followed by Lent lunches. On Palm Sunday, we processed from the Methodist Church, and Holy Week was celebrated with evening Mass on the first three days, Footwashing and Vigil on Maundy Thursday and Stations of the Cross, Readings and prayer, and the Liturgy on Good Friday.
Easter was celebrated firstly on Easter Eve with the Easter Vigil and First Mass, and then again on Easter day with a joyous Parish Mass.
In April St James became accredited as a Walsingham prayer cell and this group of 6 (with others, of course) meets on the first Saturday of each month to pray the Rosary. In June the biggest party for some years made Pilgrimage to Walsingham, including some who had not visited before, and the group enjoyed the development of the spiritual and fellowship dimensions of such a trip, led warmly and well by Fr Jim and Fr Mark Budden.
Fr Mark has been known to us at St James’s for a number of years and has helped us with taking services on numerous occasions. During 2015 he started to gradually make his “home” here and during 2016 this developed into a warm and mutually rewarding spiritual relationship; at the time of writing (January 2017) Fr Mark has just been licensed to us as Associate Priest and we are thrilled to welcome him. While a large part of his remit is to help and support other parishes at times of need, during 2016 he celebrated and co-celebrated many services at St James and brought his own insight and learning to Lent and Advent groups as well as the Walsingham Pilgrimage.
Closer links were forged with St Mary, Merton. Fr Jim celebrated Evensong there once a month and led them in a retreat; we enjoyed an “Altar swop” when Fr Jim celebrated at St Mary’s while Fr John Hayward celebrated here, and we were blessed to welcome their reader, Barbara Moreland preaching.
Ascension Day was celebrated at St Mary’s in the evening; Pentecost was celebrated at St James’s with everyone coming dressed in red and a procession with the usual liturgical symbols of candles and incense, and the less common ones of bubbles and ribbon sticks – all to evoke the Holy Spirit’s uplifting descent at the start of the wider church. Corpus Christi was another procession – this time in white – and we welcomed Fr Daniel Eshun from Whitelands College as guest preacher. A number of us went to a course at Whitelands College on Anglicanism Today, at which Fr Jim was one of the speakers. St James was host for the Churches Together in Merton Park service for the Week of Christian Unity.
In June the nation celebrated the official 90th birthday of her majesty the Queen, and St James – with very many other churches – celebrated for the Head of the Anglican Communion with a party followed by a service which was attended by many neighbours and friends.
And then came July. What should be said about the weekend of our patronal festival? Dubbed JamesFest, the focus of the whole weekend was on St. James and on the Camino – the Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella. Supported and enhanced by our guests, Bishop Christopher, Bishop Carlos of Spain, Fr Spencer and many other clergy and guests, the weekend started on Saturday as members of the Confraternity of St James made a small Camino, walking in scorching heat from Earlsfield to St James’s with a statue of St James which was processed into church at the start of a concelebrated Mass in which Bishop Carlos preached. After lunch, people who had made the Camino spoke of their experiences and then, following a service of Compline there was Sangria and Tarta de Santiago in the Vicarage Garden. On Sunday it was “just family” at our 9.30 mass, and early on Monday the chapel was full for, again, a concelebrated Mass, but this time, led by Bishop Carlos in Spanish. Some were able to join the responses in Spanish, most weren’t – but we all knew exactly what was going on.
Those of us who thought we might be due for a rest were mistaken as on 8th August the Assumption of the Virgin Mary was recalled in a “Mass on the grass” in the vicarage garden, September was busy with Back to Church Sunday and then Harvest Festival. October saw a wonderful Pet Blessing – mainly cats and dogs but who didn’t like seeing Fr Jim bless a bearded dragon? And seeing the animals processed around the garden by proud owners and sprinkled with Holy Water, and then inside each animal and owner blessed individually at the altar was a delight. There were many smiling faces in church that day – some for whom it was their first time in church for a long time – and all the animals were on their best behaviour; they must have known where they were.
A more reflective day in October, when about 20 of us went to Westminster Abbey for St Edwards day – a day of services, and opportunities for awe, reflection and prayer as the Abbey was closed to tourists and functioned as “just” a church – albeit a rather splendid and special one. More reflection at All Saints and All Souls and then before we knew it, we were at the start of the Church’s calendar again at the onset of Advent.
During Advent, there were three housegroup meetings, led by Fr Mark and Fr Jim, in which we considered the nativity stories in Matthew and Luke. Fr Jim and Lyn also took their lives in their hands and led the Joseph Hood School Christingle Services in Church – a great joy to have the church filled with children, teachers and parents enjoying the story of the Nativity and the symbolism of the Christingle. The children knew Fr Jim as he has taken school assemblies there, and they were so well behaved it was a joy for all concerned.
A new venture in Advent, was a huge celebration of St Nicholas day, with a visit from the Saint himself at our 11.00 Family Service on the 4th and at our major celebration on the evening itself. We were honoured by other visitors at that service – Lord and Lady Carey, ex Archbishop of Canterbury, who preached. Two more services where the serious message of preparation for the coming of the Lord was given to a church full of happy smiling faces.
Our main annual leap of faith is our carol singing outside the church, on the Saturday before Christmas. With brass accompaniment from Rob (who we know from the Wimbledon Community Orchestra which rehearses in our hall) and his friends and colleagues, and the church door open onto a tableau of the empty manger and seats, waiting for the birth, there was wonderful carol singing from stalwarts and strangers alike. Hopefully, not strangers forever as hot chocolate, mulled wine and mince pies helped make a warm welcome on a cold night. And yet more carols plus music from the choir, with readings, candlelit, inside the church on the Sunday before Christmas (attended by Pastor Ha of the Wimbledon Korean Baptist Church) and again before the start of Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
Earlier on Christmas Eve there was a different atmosphere as excited children and their families (often in 3 and even 4 generations) came to the Nativity and Christingle Service. The church rang with laughter, children answering questions, and carols as they entered into the Nativity Story with the tableau. For the first time we were blessed with a visit from “John the Baptist”, as Fr Jim dubbed a very small boy who toddled up to the manger and proclaimed “Jesus” in a very loud voice, several times. We also had a real baby who Mum seemed to think was called Olivia but Fr Jim designated Jesus. As always, there was quiet, beautiful singing and prayer - and, perhaps, the real spirit of Christmas - as the circle round the church lit their candles and the main lights were extinguished.
Midnight Mass was, as always, a fine and fitting start to Christmas, and the smaller number who celebrated on Christmas morning welcomed the day gladly, with a said service and carols.
In 2016 we were blessed with preaching, praying, teaching from a wide variety of people – clergy (including Fr David Hastings) bishops, readers, academics, laiety; the latter mainly led by Mike and Simon. But we were most blessed by the presence, actions and ministries of our “own” three priests – Fr Jim, Fr Graham and Fr Mark and we give thanks for them.
Family Services continued on the first Sunday in the month, with a small number of families enjoying their Godly Play sessions. Great efforts have been made to involve children in any services they wish to come to and to encourage the older children to join in serving at the altar, reading and praying, with some success.
The core families continue to be involved in the wider work of the church and there is a wider group of families that came to “special” services such as Nativity and Christingle, Pet Service, St Nicholas service etc. We must try to find ways to invite and make welcome children and families to services that work for them. Sadly, for the first time in very many years there is no Junior Choir – Dylan moved up to sing with the men during this year and we are delighted he has remained in the choir.
Links with Joseph Hood School have grown again; Fr Jim met Mrs Saville, the head teacher soon after his arrival and he and Elaine have been made welcome by children and staff a number of times to take assemblies; all the children now know who Fr Jim is, and where St James’s church is too. All the children came to their Christingle and Nativity service in December and some also came to the Pet Service. The school PTFA had a stall at our Christmas Fair.
This year’s annual church count showed average attendance at “ordinary” Sunday services hovering at about 49 adults and children and the number on the Electoral Roll reduced to 64, six names having been removed, and none added; we have set a target for attendance to increase by at least 50% over the next few years – we are a way from that yet. Most members of the congregation continued to take an active part in services by acting as chalice assistants and welcomers, reading, praying, serving, collecting the offertory and singing in the choir. We were delighted to welcome Cloyd and Norlan as members of the serving team - we would like more people to be active in this ministry especially younger ones. Nor do we forget the “behind the scenes people” who, for example, print and photocopy leaflets and service sheets, keep the linen beautiful, and buy and arrange fresh flowers for the church, chapel and lobby – and our lovely cleaners, Carol and Judith who work around us and above and beyond the call of duty at times.
Sadly, in a generally upbeat year, there were a few major departures. George Green died at the end of last year but his funeral was the day after Fr Jim’s arrival – taken by Fr Graham. Dennis Charlesworth and his parents had been members of the church all their lives and Dennis had been Sacristan for many years. Fr Ian McCormack was honoured to be asked to preach at that service, since Dennis had been the person who taught him to serve at the altar. The PCC agreed to make a loan to Dennis’s cousin in order that Dennis could be buried from St James’s, with his parents, as was his last wish. Charles Pearce, a stalwart and faithful worshipper died in April and Eileen Gilgrass who had not been able to attend church for a number of years but had been regular in receiving the Sacrament, and news of all that was going on at St James, taken to her at home, passed her hundredth birthday in August and was taken ill and died a few days later. More happily for them, but sadly for us, Karolina, Dylon, Jessica and her new baby brother left and went back home to South Africa.
Much activity went on behind the scenes – lunches and coffees, taking food to the food bank, taking out the rubbish, lifts, visits, shopping, home communions, organizing the hall lettings and opening and shutting the church daily, and the hall for one off lets – all and more carried out by very many members of the congregation. And practical help was always available when needed by a variety of people with many skills; whether for the church as a whole or for an individual seeking help.
Members of the Wimbledon Korean Baptist Church continued to use the church, hall and chapel several times a week for worship, services and fellowship. Their style of worship is undoubtedly different to ours – as Fr Jim and Pastor Ha, who have both attended the other’s services, can testify. But we worship the same God and it is good to have the church filled with worship for more of the time. We can learn from them and try to increase our numbers and copy their enthusiasm.
As well as the usual, ongoing, maintenance and repair work that has to be done, there were two fairly major pieces of work completed during 2016. The chapel roof was replaced and the leaking into the chapel has stopped, and the lighting in the church was replaced. The heating remained an issue and was prioritised in the Mission Action Plan but did not progress much during this year. At the time of writing, a new working party has met and members are looking into roof insulation, replacement of boilers and other alternative heating systems, possible grant applications etc. There is still a long way to go but hopefully 2017 will be the year when concrete decisions are made and work can start on sorting out these issues. All three of the above issues took up a huge amount of time and effort from a relatively small number of people and we are grateful to them for their industry and perseverance in pursuing them.
Health and Safety is one of those things that takes regular attention, from the yearly Fire Inspection “walkabout” to observing problems and dealing with them before they become a bigger problem. The Churchwardens and Fr Jim worked closely with Robin and Sandra our Community Police, and Faith in Action to help a homeless person who was using the church and grounds.
The hall continued very well-used. Small clubs, classes, meetings and children’s parties, to larger groups and endeavours; all used the facilities and, during 2016 both the lobby and the church were also used. Richard Thomas worked like a Trojan to keep the bookings timetable up to date and workable, in fielding problems about heating plumbing, etc and in sending out invoices and, on occasion, chasing tardy and reluctant payers. He has long said he would like some help with this important work and Sheila Coverdale works the “one-off” bookings, but it is the regulars that have grown this year.
We take pride in our lovely building and grounds, (maintained largely by Hilary Godwin, Graham Aslett and Mike McCormack) and pleasure in the lobby and chapel being open for private prayer and shelter during most days, managed by a small group of people opening and closing, led by Simon Emdin. There are risks to this; there were some small issues with graffiti and litter, and keeping loose paper in the lobby to a minimum (balancing this with the wish to offer information, notices and prayer cards) is part of our fire risk management but the message given by the open door is a powerful one. The notice boards in the porch and lobby tell the story of St James with notices, rotas, photos and displays of recent events, and a display board of the work done with the children at the most recent Family Service and this is seen by a quite large audience as the lobby is used, by agreement, as a waiting area for the parents of the children at the Kumon Maths Centre, twice a week. Kumon now have a permanent noticeboard outside the hall, which also advertises the hall, to our mutual benefit.
This was a very very busy year for the Social and Fund Raising Committee and myriad others with so many big events that it was difficult at times to draw breath. We have always held hospitality and fellowship as an important part of life at St James’s and this was true across the whole of the year at big events and small. In January, having welcomed Fr Jim in church, a reception welcomed him, his many friends from St Nicholas at Wade and elsewhere, and colleagues and supporters from across the deanery, the Diocese and the local community.
Our regular “Café St James” – coffee after services on every Sunday and Thursday - continued, but it was great to get feedback as to how these appear to the new and uninitiated and could be perceived as daunting, so minor changes were made to seating and to reduce the queuing to make more inclusive. Through the year the focus in many areas gradually developed from “welcoming” to “inviting” and plans were made to extend the Thursday coffee morning and open to a much wider group and this has just started at the time of writing in 2017.
The start of Lent was preceded by a pancake party in the vicarage and then a modest lunch was served each Thursday after the Lent group. Mothering Sunday was marked by a version of the “St James-the-Great British Bake-off” when a tightly fought competition of home baked simnel cakes, judged by visiting “celebrities”, ended with everyone winning something and – a feature of the year, really – everyone smiling.
A small party followed the Easter Eve service but a much bigger one followed the Easter Day service, when both the resurrection and Carolyn and Bernard Doswell’s Golden Wedding Anniversary were toasted and applauded.
A cleaning day doesn’t sound much fun, but the Easter Saturday of cleaning, polishing, flower arranging, gardening etc to make the church bright and welcoming to greet Easter Morning was, as always, a good and sociable experience – with very good hot cross buns, which helps.
Regular events of Quiz night, Games Night, Jumble Sale, Book Sale, Summer and Christmas Fairs, Harvest Breakfast all came and went with, in general, good success financially (for church funds and various charities) and in terms of fun had by us and our neighbours. As part of our “move them from the hall to the church” campaign, pictures of us at various services, clearly enjoying ourselves, were put up in the hall and all our visitors to the hall now can see something of what occurs on the other side of the lobby. One of the pictures shows the Mass on the Grass on Assumption Day and this was followed, still in the vicarage garden, by a barbecue that was attended by friends and family.
The first major new event of the summer was the Queen’s birthday party. We celebrated on “the day” in April, with a small service and cake, but in June a Garden Party and Church service were attended and enjoyed by many local people – close working between Helen Tanner and friends and neighbours enabled this to go ahead.
Second was the JamesFest weekend already mentioned. Brave or foolhardy we went ahead with a definite Spanish feel and provided tapas lunch and churros for many people, followed by “in house” made Santiago tarts and sangria in the vicarage garden, parish breakfast on the Sunday, and a posher breakfast for a smaller gathering on the Monday morning.
Further hospitality was extended over Advent and Christmas – a reception in the back of church for St Nicholas Day, Advent house groups with light suppers, outdoor carols with mulled wine, hot chocolate and mince pies to passers-by as well as singers and musicians and the same the next night in the hall for those who attended the Lessons and Carols service.
We continued to support the Wimbledon Foodbank, Christian Care, Faith in Action and the Bishop’s Lent Appeal. In addition this year, donations were sent to a wide range of local and further flung charities, including China Fund, Christian Aid, Santiago Project, Children’s Society, Ordination Fund, Age UK, Cambodia Appeal, Embrace the Middle East, McMillan Nurses, Bethlehem University and St Nicholas Society. Quite aside from the gifts given (toys, food, clothing etc) charitable donations this year amounted to £4,142.
During the year, while the PCC continued to implement the requirements of the Health and Safety Policy, Fire Policy, and A Safer Church Policy much of the year was spent with us getting to know Fr Jim, him getting to know us and for each of us to get the best from each other.
He had been very taken with our Mission Action Plan (MAP) and we worked on reviewing and updating that; the celebration of goals achieved, looking at what still needed to be done and working out the next steps to take. To that end we maintained our single long term goal – to have increased average attendance by 50% over a five year period (ie by 2020). Of our shorter term targets……
2016 was again a very good year for St. James financially and our excess of income over expenditure enabled a new roof to be installed on the chapel, and an increase in spending on mission activities. While we greatly benefit from the increased use of both church and hall, and the income that this generates, it must be stressed that it is the regular and generous giving of the congregation week by week that enables St. James to carry on and meet all its financial obligations.
In 2016 we continued to look in depth at how we would try to live to our ideal of growing up towards God; growing out to our community and the wider world; growing together for support and strength. This aspiration drove our life here at St James with our new leader during the past year, and now carries us forward to the next stage in our journey of faith together in the year to come.
Signed, on behalf of the PCC:
Fr James Rosenthal
Chair of PCCFebruary 2017.
Thank you, to all who are on the rota, to serve that welcomed cup of coffee/tea, on Sunday and Thursday mornings after the services. We now have an added addition on the first Thursday of each month, with CAMEO, “Come And Meet Each Other”, where invitations have been sent out, and also put on social media, inviting the local community, to join us for coffee and home-made cakes, for a chat and to get to know each other, also board games have been put out, and there is a book stall, and all ages are welcomed. The first Thursday in March, 6 people joined us, and so we hope and pray that this will grow in the future months.
Thanks also to those who are making cakes for CAMEO, and another team setting up the hall and kitchen, and for the extra volunteers that help to wash up and clear up.
I have handed to the treasurer £800 this past year, money raised through the Café, and this is put into the Church Funds.
If you would like to help with the Café, we can always add more names to the rota, as it is a great way of meeting and getting to know each other.
As usual the Choir has had a busy year providing all the music for Sunday services and the important festivals that fall within the Christian calendar. Over the year we have sung some familiar music and learnt some new things.
We have become rather thin on the ground as far as tenors and basses are concerned, but although we are small in number we still try to do our best to provide music of a good standard for our worship. I appreciate the continuing support of choir members and their willingness to work hard.
Back in September Helen Tanner was officially presented with her gold award at a service in St Georges Roman Catholic Cathedral, Southwark. During the year Dylan’s voice broke and he is now a bass. With the help of Fr Graham and Bill, Dylan is getting used to singing bass and is becoming a great asset to the bass line.
Many thanks to Beckie Sturge for deputising for me when I was away.
As usual Deanery Synod met quarterly, St. James' being represented by Fr Jim, Fr Graham, Mike McCormack and Simon Emdin, attending as they were variously able. Mike has come to the end of his ‘tour of duty’ we will miss his discursive ability and calm insightful judgment. Deanery Synod is in a process of transition, evidently by Bishop Christopher's will, from being an assembly for talk which may be interesting but usually leads nowhere, to a ‘resource’ which may support parish (and team ministry) mission.
Both aspects were present in 2016:
The first aspect was represented by presentations, some inspiring, by volunteers involved in community work. For example, ‘Merton Against Trafficking’ works with the Salvation Army (which since 2009 has held a Government contract to help those who have been ‘trafficked’) to rehabilitate people who have been lured here by false promises by ‘gang masters’ and who feel helpless when their hopes are dashed and they are cajoled into sordid subservience. Good work is also done, with Council support, for teenagers in especial danger of drug addiction.
The second aspect occupied the last two meetings of the year and will likely dominate 2017. Debate is increasing about how the Deanery, which is a geographical notion and also the lowest level of the Church's synodical structure, may play an active role in the Church's mission to proclaim the Gospel of Christ. St. James' representatives incline to feel that the Deanery's role in this work must be secondary to that of the parishes, e.g. as a clearing house of information about missional initiatives which have worked in the parishes or team ministries. More ambitious ideas seem at this stage to have the support of the Deanery's Executive; but without an adequate structural or personnel framework, they might be finally found to be impracticable - doubtless after considerable debate!
The Fabric Committee is looking towards the next quinquennial inspection by the Diocesan Architect, which takes place later this year. We have accomplished a lot of the recommendations in the last quinquennial report.
Regular jobs include the removal of ivy from fences and walls; clearing moss off tarmac areas; keeping gutters, gully heads and drains clear and carrying out regular inspections, such as the fire safety audit. Last summer, Graham Aslett kept the weeds around the church under control with regular spraying, for which we are most grateful.
Graham Coverdale has done a PAT testing course (portable appliances testing) and he has now tested all our appliances. We are most grateful to Graham for doing this.
Sadly the weather prevented us making progress with repainting the Hall windows. We hope that the remainder will be completed this year. If you like painting and ladders, please let us know!
The new Heating Committee has met several times and looked at the wide variety of quotes that have been obtained. Getting each quote is a time consuming business, often requiring Elaine, Mike, Richard and others to spend hours showing contractors around. The committee is narrowing down the options and will be discussing them with the church architect, Daniel Goldberg. Once he has given his approval, we can apply to Southwark Diocese for a faculty. We are also researching various grant making organisations to see if we can get financial help.
There have been recurring problems with the external switch for the disabled access door. The engineers have visited on several occasions and replaced bits and pieces but the external switch, presented large bills and then the switch fails a few weeks later. Very few companies install and service such systems, making it difficult to resolve this problem which is very frustrating.
Last summer the flooding of the boiler room and space under the hall stage created a horrible clearing up job for Michael, Elaine, Mary-Jane and others. The boiler room had to be pumped out, and then mopped dry. Luckily the heating engineers said that the boilers were not seriously damaged. The full extent of the flood under the stage was discovered at annual Book Fair. Many car loads of soggy and very mouldy books were taken to Garth Road. All the remaining books are still being stored on the stage while the floor and walls dry out. At some point fungicide will need to be applied before anything can be put back there. If you have any wooden pallets, please could we have them, so that we can raise boxes of book off the floor.
We have found a glazier who specialises in craft stained glass who has replaced the broken leaded lights in the Lobby. She has been asked to come and quote for the repairs to the window in the Churchwardens’ cupboard.
During the next few months we will need your continued support with window frame painting, keeping the brambles and ivy under control and much more and we thank you for all the hard work you have put in to improve St James in the past year.
Graham Aslett, Graham Coverdale, Mary-Jane Jeanes, and Elaine McCormack
As mentioned in our PCC report, our monthly mainly Godly Play sessions have continued throughout this year. It is always hard to know how many families will attend, sometimes very few (but still important and valued) and sometimes many, including new faces. Huge thanks to the team who support Elaine and me; Debbie for her cheerfulness, patience and positivity and Fr Jim for actively participating, playing the piano and teaching us new songs. Our December session delighted the children and adults with a very special surprise visit from St Nicholas!
We endeavour to increase our numbers more consistently and to find ways to support the families' links with and transition to weekly Eucharists. Our older children, some who no longer come to our Family Services, are very willing and confident about taking part in our All Age services, some as serving or reading, enriching these with their enthusiasm and vitality. We continue to look for ways of increasing their attendance and participation .
In the past year we as a team have enjoyed working together arranging the flowers to beautify the church. We do have a flower fund that pays for them but it is lovely that some people sponsor the flowers on occasion, in memory of a loved one of for a special event. There is a notice on the board if you would like to sign up for a week. It is also nice that people notice and comment on our efforts.
We look forward to having fun with the spring flowers, and hope more people male or female will join us it is very therapeutic.
I would simply say that we get a lot of good feedback about the hall, how much people like it; maybe could do with a few more volunteers to be on the list of those I pester to open and close? Not that we’ve ever had to turn down a booking that I know of – we’ve always found someone. Maybe it’s just a case of giving me a list of everyone who doesn’t mind being asked? I usually just make it up, and end up asking those I know best, of course!
(Any more volunteers out there? Contact Sheila!) Elaine McCormack
I believe there has long been a Craft Group, most recently during BOFF, where a group of St James' people met together to make a beautiful friendship quilt to raise money for our new hall facilities and kitchen.
The new 4th Wednesday Group's main focus is to discuss and make items to sell at our fairs to support our church and other charities. At our Christmas Fair, the craft stall was supplemented by many pairs of gloves, knitted dolls, and handmade jewellery, cards, Christmas decorations, created by the ‘4th’ team.
We try to share our diverse skills and interests. Jean has kindly lead a fascinating encaustic wax card making session; Joan taught us how to make lovely gift boxes. At our last meeting, everyone knitted a little ‘hat’ to support Innocent Smoothies' Help the Aged campaign and went home with homework to make more!
Although the majority of people who come to the meetings are ‘crafty’, an interest in making stuff is all you need. Everyone is welcome to come to chat, laugh together, have a cuppa and a biscuit – 4th Wednesdays in the month – from 2 to 4pm at Linda’s
Prayer or intercessions are the words of people who dare to converse with God. For some years now it has been the practice that our prayers at the Sunday Eucharist are led by a member of the congregation, and the intention is to add variety to our prayers and to encourage as many people as possible to take an active role in this part of our worship. There are currently 8 members of the congregation who take on this responsibility and each has their own individual and distinct emphasis. Usually the standard format for intercessions is followed (the church; the world; ourselves; the sick; the departed), or at least provides a starting point. Intercessions are an essential aspect of our worship, and although prayer is beyond words, and silence can be very meaningful, we, as conversational beings, need at times to pray in words, and lay our petitions before the throne of grace.
Fr. Mark will be arranging a workshop and training both for those who are already leading intercessions and any who might wish to join the existing Team. It is a most rewarding and stimulating ministry.
The ladies group continued to meet socially, roughly once a month at varied houses, with a post-Christmas meal at a restaurant. There’s no agenda – just a chance to meet, chat and socialize with friends over a cup of tea – and you don’t have to be a lady! In 2017, we have changed the meetings to a civilised afternoon time and Hilary Godwin, and any of the other members, would welcome anyone who wanted to give it a go – just ask for details.
The loss of Dennis Charlesworth's encyclopaedic knowledge, developed over his many years as Sacristan, was keenly felt in 2016; but his conscientious training of servers lives on in the present team, and in the guidance and help which Michael Pilgrim gives us when we are perplexed.
Fr Jim's arrival stimulated us to a greater alertness and co-operative flexibility which has further enhanced the mutual trust we already enjoyed. We gladly ‘cover for’ each other, so that as Sacristan I know I need have no anxiety, whether the team is assisting a visiting Reader or a former Primate of All England.
A highlight of the year was the open-air Eucharist in the Vicarage garden at the Assumption in August; worship among the birds and trees and other fellow-creatures gives extra assurance that the Highest Power is indeed alive and benevolent. This service was also a useful exercise in trust, as the candlestands were set down in the lawn's undulations and the linen was laid open to the breeze. Several outdoor processions have reminded us that candles seem to be extinguished by the wind and then may re-ignite ‘spontaneously’ - a powerful symbol of the ups and downs of life in contact with the Holy Spirit.
Another occasion for trust was the blessing of pets, who showed how to be spontaneous during a service without turning it into ‘messy church’.
Safeguarding at St James involves our implementing the policies of the Diocese of Southwark to protect the well-being of children, vulnerable adults and all people in the congregation and during church activities.
We are a congregation committed to ensuring that this is a place of safety and inclusion for everyone and our Safeguarding Officers are Anne Fleming and Linda Laffar.
If you have any concerns about the safety of a child or adult in their home life, here at St James's, in our worship, or in any activities that take place in our Church Hall, you can always discuss it with us, the Parish Safeguarding Officers, or with Father Jim, our Parish Priest-in-Charge.
The S&F committee's primary aim is, as always, to continue to support and increase our fellowship and outreach at St James'. It also raises money for church needs and many charities, in particular, Christian Care and the Foodbank.
We meet together regularly to organise and support a range of social events – since the last APCM , the Summer Fair , Queen Elizabeth II's 90th birthday street party celebrations, our Jamesfest Weekend, Mass on the Grass, Harvest Breakfast, Book Sale, Games Night, Christmas Fair, Outdoor Christmas Carol ‘Sing Along’, our Winter Party, Shrove Tuesday pancake party, as well as providing refreshments at other times.
I sincerely thank our team for all their hard work and commitment and, also, the many others who kindly and willingly give their time, skills and support to make our ventures so successful. If you would like to join us, you'd be most welcome!
This report provides an opportunity to thank everyone for their continued financial support of St James’. Being good stewards
requires us to decide what we will do with all that God has entrusted to us. The familiar offertory response "All things come from
you, and of your own do we give you" reminds us that all that we have is sourced from God's provision.
Financial stewardship not only allows us to pay the bills but also enables us to develop our mission and ministry as outlined in our Mission Action Plan. During the past year we have received a total of £21,489 through planned giving and those contributions (as well as donations) which were gift aided enabled us to claim £4583.24 in recoverable income tax.
The Planned Giving scheme helps us to plan our church finances each year and offerings are made either by using a weekly envelope or by setting up a standing order with the bank. Please speak to me (the Stewardship Secretary) if you are interested in becoming a member of the Stewardship Scheme and also if you are a taxpayer and would like a Gift Aid declaration form to enable us to reclaim the tax on your offering - 25p for each pound given. (Your donations won’t qualify for Gift Aid if they are more than four times what you’ve paid in tax that tax year).
Our web site provides information about us and our activities for members of our own congregation and makes our presence known to the wider on-line community. It has details of our regular and seasonal services and other religious activities and also of our social events. An important feature is the Picture Gallery which contains photos of recent events and activities.
Revision of pages mostly depends on information being supplied (preferably by e-mail) by those involved in the activities, so anyone who thinks a page is out of date, notices any errors, has an activity which could be included, or has suggestions for other improvements, please get in contact - email@example.com
Your two representatives, Shirley Morse and Fr. Graham, joined the representatives from St. John Fisher R/C Church, Martin Way Methodist, Merton Park Baptist and St. Mary’s Merton for five Meetings in 2016. We were pleased to have two new
members from Martin Way come and join us.
We shared information about Lent Study Groups, and Holy Week observances, again suggesting we joined the Good Friday Witness at the Civic Centre led by St. Lawrence’s Church, although at least two of the churches always had their own joint witness. A very successful Seder meal (Jewish) for about 50 people was planned, and took place at Martin Way Methodist Church in March. The profit of £60.61 was given to Christian Care.
Arrangements were made for the Week of Prayer Service which was held here at St. James in May, with each church having a part to play. The £50.00 offering again went to Christian Care.
It was noted that Street Pastors had begun working out from Morden Baptist Church and were looking for more volunteers.
Discussion was initiated about a project/activity which would bring participants from the churches together to be a visible witness to the Church in our area. A number of existing activities were discussed and our need to know what pastoral/outreach activities each church already offered, and what people-power/ skills might be offered. It was agreed that we should focus on activities for the elderly initially. These would be put into a leaflet for the churches and appropriate outlets when completed.
The regular Christmas Leaflet was again prepared and disseminated around a very wide area of Merton Park and Morden funded by each of the churches.
During the year information was shared about activities among the churches. These included a new free film ‘showing’ at St. Mary’s on the first Wednesday of the month at 2.00pm, with a break for refreshments at a crucial moment in the film (!), a Rock Choir Concert at Martin Way in support of “Gift Bags for the Homeless”, the St. Nicholas Day Service at St. James, and the introduction of the CAMEO (Come and Meet Each Other)outreach at St. James on the first Thursday morning of the month.
At each meeting a report was given by Gillian Thick on the latest work of the Christian Care Association (founded by the local churches 50 years ago) and now based at Martin Way Methodist Church, the various public meetings they held, the social activities – parties, outings and holidays, organised for their clients and their families (mostly homeless and refugee families), the work of visiting families, shopping, provision of travel cards, furniture and much else; dedicated volunteers from the churches enable all this to happen.
We noted the arrival of our new priest at St. James and St. John Fisher’s new priest.
While Christian Unity is way down most congregants’ concerns, disunity remains a barrier to the Church’s effective mission. The Representatives of the churches believe we must do what we can to express such unity as we have.
Fr Graham Derriman
Corinne Marshall, the co-ordinator for the Wimbledon foodbank, very kindly wrote to us in mid-February to give us an update as to the foodbank
generally, and our contribution towards it in particular.
Thanks to the kind donations given by members of this congregation, members at St James, Martin Way, have collectively supplied enough food to feed 7 people for three days, or 49.7kg of food over the Christmas period. This was a tremendous effort by us all.
The foodbank has, over the last year, fed over 4500 people, and, over the last two years, 7500.
This is worthwhile work indeed, and our willingness as a congregation, to contribute towards our local community in this way is truly wonderful. Thank you to all who have contributed and, if you would like to know how to get involved please let me know.
Our Churchwardens, Linda Laffar and
Mary-Jane Jeanes who worked tirelessly together with Fr Jim and everyone else who contributed to making 2016 the year it was.
Thanks to them and all who makes St James’s what it is.
All are welcome –
come and join us.