Torchbearers

 

Dear friends

For us as a nation, last year was an extraordinary year. I remember attending the arrival of the Olympic torch into Cheltenham racecourse – just one leg on a journey through towns, villages and cities across the country. In many ways it set the tone for a summer of national celebration: the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Olympic torch was the forerunner that prepared the nation, generated excitement and looked forward to all that was to come. 

The words of a hymn by Frank Houghton (1894-1972) come to mind when I think of those who carried that Olympic Torch: 

We bear the torch that flaming

Fell from the hand so those

Who gave their lives proclaiming

That Jesus died and rose

Ours is the same commission

The same glad message ours

Fired by the same ambition

To Thee we yield our powers. 

We may not have carried the Olympic Torch but it is the nature of the church to carry the torch of the Good News of Jesus Christ from one generation to another. It is our duty and our joy to keep alive the flame of love and hope in the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ and to pass it on from one person to another. 

In this respect our mission statement is spot on. We are to ‘Build bridges for Jesus to cross’. Our vision is to enable everyone who lives in Tewkesbury and round about to have the opportunity to hear the good news of God’s saving love in Jesus. It is as simple as that – to grow God’s Kingdom, one person at a time. How have we achieved our vision this year through the ministry of Holy Trinity Church? As we look over the breadth of ministry and activity that has taken place this year we can see the degree to which we have been connecting with our community, building bridges, dismantling prejudices and providing possibilities for God to impact people’s lives. 

Schools work

Our involvement with the primary and secondary schools is an important arena for engaging with community life. The number of us involved with schools as: teachers, support staff, governors, open the book teams etc demonstrates the good relationship we enjoy with all the schools. This is shown further by the frequent visits of the schools to Holy Trinity to participate in any number of activities. This is good bridge building activity and shows that we are not some private club set apart from the community, but actively involved within it. We seek to be a church in the community, for the community. The recent visit of 5 primary schools to the church to attend the concert given by the Watoto Children’s choir was a wonderful demonstration of the church bringing people together. 

Outreach activities

Other ways in which we engage with the community are through the services (Outlook, Sunday at 3, Holy Communion) we take to the residential care homes, Day Centre and the hospital via the chaplaincy team. In this way we are as a church community live out this vision to build a bridge of faith into people’s lives. We also make connections through: Smarties, Alpha, the Mop Fair, church socials and the recent opening of the Food bank. They all provide a point of access for our community through which an individual may choose to explore further the love of God. 

If, as Archbishop William Temple is attributed as saying; ‘The Church is the only organisation in the world that exists solely for the benefit of its non-members’, then an outward focus that seeks to engage and grow a relationship with the community is entirely right and appropriate. We continue this outward focus in our worshipping life as we welcome visitors and new comers to our Sunday services and try to enable them to find a point of connection with God in our worship. It is reassuring to hear from such visitors of the friendliness and warmth of our welcome to them. 

The three Bs: Belonging

The journey to faith often begins with finding a place of belonging in the life of our church through a friendly welcome and worship which is contemporary and accessible. It is often from this point that individuals will venture onto the Alpha course as it is seen as a way of exploring further what they are experiencing. 

Believing

Those who attend Alpha and see it through to the end of the course are usually in a good place to continue the journey through to the Discipleship course in which they have an opportunity to grow in their understanding of faith. This often leads to a decision for Christ resulting in Baptism or the renewal of Baptismal vows or confirmation. From here the individual might join a cell group and continue the journey of discipleship. 

Behaving

With increasing understanding and awareness of God, an individual discovers areas of his /her life that need to come into line with God’s purposes. This is the work of the Holy Spirit who gently touches on areas of our lives that need to be changed. This is a process that will continue until we meet the Lord face to face. It doesn’t matter whether we have known the Lord for 1 year or 50 years we will all continue to require change and transformation. 

Growing a healthy church

It is good to be part of a community that recognises that we are all in this together and reaches out in welcome and grace to others who might come and join us on the journey and so make the necessary space available that does not restrict our growth. We remind ourselves that ultimately it is the Lord who adds to our numbers and not anything of ourselves. 

So I would like to thank all who have continued faithfully to ‘carry the torch’ with us this last year and in particular those in leadership positions. To Sharon, Sarah and John who share the vision of leadership with me and provide encouragement, support and friendship –you demonstrate the importance of relational leadership and friendship. Thank you. To Simon, Pat, Dave and Rachel on the Standing Committee –thank you for your enormous input to the day to day running of the church – its finances, maintenance and onward mission of the church.

 

To the members of the PCC and your wise counsel, thank you.

To the staff team: Donna and the huge amount of work put in behind the scenes keeping the admin of the church moving forward, to Lynn and your energy and enthusiasm for ministry to children, not just in TJC but through the schools work and bridge building opportunities, to Trev and your willingness to come along side our youth as part of your university placement this year.

 

I would like to thank every member of our church family for the vital part that each one of you plays in the ministry of this church whatever that might be, for it is in our togetherness that Christ is revealed. 

As we look to the future and carry forward the torch of the gospel may we be inspired by these words of Desmond Tutu: 

‘We are a church on the move, an instrument in the hand of God, proclaiming the Good News, nurturing new converts. We are instruments of peace and reconciliation and justice in the hands of God. We are the means of healing hurts, of building community, of feeding the hungry. We are a worshipping Spirit-filled community, who knows that we can do God’s work only in God’s way with God’s means, and so we have an engaged spirituality that places first things first. 

We are God’s partners, God’s agents of transformation, to change the ugliness of the world; its hatreds, its hostilities, its jealousies, its hunger, its poverty, its injustice,, its oppression, its alienation, its loneliness, its competitiveness, its grasping, its sickness, into their glorious counterparts; so that there will be laughter and joy, caring and sharing, justice, reconciliation and peace, compassion’. 

Looking forward as each one of us bears the torch of faith may we keep our eyes fixed on the heavenly vision, the goal of our faith, anticipating Christ’s return that we may be found faithful, serving the Lord with joy and hope in our hearts for this coming year. 

With every blessing in Christ 

Stephen