Vicar's Report - Annual Parochial Church Meeting 7/04/11

‘Loyalty, Love and Faithfulness’

In 2007 a group of South Korean missionaries were captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan. They were terrified. There were twenty three of them at the start – the Taliban separated them, isolated them, and confiscated everything. One of the Korean women managed to hold on to her Bible. She ripped it into twenty-three pieces and gave each of them a portion of the Scriptures so that wherever they were they could always read a portion of scripture when no one was watching.  They knew the Taliban had decided to kill them, one at a time. One at a time the missionaries surrendered their lives again to Jesus saying, ‘Lord, if you want me to die for your sake I’ll do it’. Then the pastor said, ‘I’ve talked to the Taliban because they are going to start killing us and I’ve told their leaders that if anyone dies, I die first because I am your pastor’. Another said, ‘No, because I also am a pastor and I am your elder. I die first.’ Then the pastor came back and said, ‘You are not ordained, I have been ordained, I die first.’ And sure enough, he died first. A couple more of them were killed before the rest were eventually rescued. They had demonstrated extraordinary loyalty, love and faithfulness to God and to each other.  

Loyalty, love and faithfulness are qualities that go hand in hand. Loyalty is a combination of love and faithfulness. It is a quality often lacking in society today. Disloyalty destroys families and even nations and threatens the fabric of our most treasured institutions.  In the book of Acts we see how time and again the apostles demonstrated extraordinary courage, loyalty, love and faithfulness. Time and again they were flogged and beaten, yet they continued to preach the Gospel and proclaim the name of Jesus.  ‘The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the Temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ’ Acts 5:41-42

As we look back over the year, I am delighted that we share a journey of faith together as those who desire to live our lives according to these values. Some of our fellowship have been through some pretty tough times and yet have held fast to Jesus and to one another proving the Gospel through times of testing. 

Staff Team - Once again I am fortunate to be able to work with an outstanding and dedicated staff team. They have been very gracious to me as I have moved in to Trinity House this year and set up office in the attic. This move has, I feel, improved the passage of communication between us and facilitated our ability to work together and support one another.  Sitting in my office and hearing the occasional outburst of hilarity in the office below shows that in spite of busy work schedules we can still have a lot of fun and more than an occasional laugh. I could not ask for anymore from our staff team – they demonstrate total commitment to the ministry in which they are employed and seek to live out these values of love, loyalty and faithfulness in their relationship with the Lord and with one another.  

Leadership Team - As in previous years, John and Sarah and James and Catherine have provided friendship and support, advice and encouragement to Sharon and myself as we have prayed and worshipped together, seeking the Lord’s wisdom and grace to guide us through what can at times appear to be quite choppy waters.  I must thank them for their mature and godly insights, their love for the Lord and their passion to see His Kingdom grow in our community over this last year. Their involvement in our worship (leading and preaching), Healing on the Streets, Smarties and Alpha are just a few of the enormous contributions they make to the ministry of our church. As those whose hearts are fully set on the Lord, they demonstrate, in word and deed, a commitment to Christ that is full blown. As James leaves for his selection conference next week and offers himself to be trained for ordained ministry, we know that (if he is selected) he and Catherine and Annabelle, Martha and Zebedee will leave a huge hole in the life of our church and will be greatly missed. But we comfort ourselves on the fact they are responding to God’s call on their lives and are stepping out in obedience to him.  

Church Wardens - Although no Anglican Church would be complete without its Church Wardens, Simon and Pat contribute an enormous amount to the running of the church often in ways not seen by the majority of the congregation. The ongoing care given to the maintenance of the fabric of our building and progressing the project to upgrade our heating and re-order the balcony demonstrates their total commitment to the role with which they have been entrusted. As always they have been enthusiastically supported by a team of many servant hearted individuals (too many to mention), who have enabled the practical maintenance and improvement to our facilities to progress. I must express my considerable debt of gratitude to Simon and Pat for their loyalty, leadership and enthusiastic support and desire to see our facilities improved for the benefit of the mission and ministry of Holy Trinity.  

PCC - As always I am grateful to the PCC members who have contributed their wise and godly thoughts in a variety of ways as we have discussed and debated matters concerning church policy and the day to day running of the church. In particular I would like to thank Dave Roberts who has taken on the position of Treasurer this year and continued to progress the management structures of our finances that help to keep us on track and help to ease the burden of the daily oversight of this task. To this end I must also thank Donna who has willingly added to her repertoire of tasks running the petty cash and coordinating the payroll services for all our staff. Thank you, Dave, for your diligent management of our finances and in particular for encouraging us to adopt the Diocesan Parish Giving Scheme as a means of improving the efficiency of this task still further. I would also like to thank Stephen Cirel for his role as Gift Aid officer which keeps the Chancellor’s contribution flowing into our account. Hopefully as we transfer to the PGS, your work load in this area should decrease. I would also like to thank those members of the PCC stepping down this year: James Pickersgill (Lay Chair and Staffing Committee), Jo Davies and Paul Holliman. Thank you all for the enormous contributions you have made on the PCC assisting in helping to oil the wheels of Church life and keep the ministry moving forward.  

There are so many others that I could mention who regularly serve our church sacrificially week by week, such as Sue Perks and the Worship team, Julie Jarman and the Prayer works team, Roger Carver and the Welcome team, Mandy Holdsworth and the coffee teams, all who support Lynn in the TJC teams and Emma in the Youth teams, but I would like to express particular thanks to Jean Herrick for her support with the 8.15 service and coordinating the ministry to the Day Centre and residential homes and to James and Lorna McMullen for their leadership of the ‘Care for the Elderly’ team. From this ministry an outreach continues to grow to the elderly in our community with a focus on the weekly coffee morning, the monthly Service @ 3, the ‘Holiday at Home’, the Christmas party and other initiatives. Thanks are owed to all of you who consistently support these initiatives and give your time, effort and energy reaching out to the older folk in our community.  

Cell leaders - The cell groups are the pillars of the church, for it is in the small group people find friendship, support and encouragement to follow Jesus. Thanks are due to our cell leaders and those who support them as assistants for the care, leadership and vision with which they nurture their groups. 

And finally, but by no means least, I would like to thank Sharon for her consistent support and godly counsel, her friendship and partnership in the gospel, for the enormous amount she does in so many quiet and unassuming ways, providing hospitality, supporting Lynn, leading Sanctuary, offering prayer and picking up numerous tasks when we are at a loss as to who might do them. The ministry would be so much the less without your unstinting and tireless support.  

In conclusion, it is truly a joy to see how one of our core values, ‘All Involved’ is so fully implemented in the life of our church. Everyone is serving in some capacity or other and for that I would like to thank you. Loyalty, love and faithfulness are qualities very much in evidence in our community life together and in our devotion to Christ. The family of God at Holy Trinity, Tewkesbury is a great place to be. We have truly been blessed by God. As we continue our journey together in this coming year, may these values serve as reminders of our commitment to one another, so that we can take our place in the gallery of faithful disciples by living a life of love.

Stephen