Thursday, 24 June 2010

Marking the Change

That final Sunday of Simon's ministry (20 June) has now come and gone (see previous post). While Simon and Jennifer look forward to their ministry at St Mary's Islington, we look forward to continuing to see what God will do here in Oadby.

Simon led us in our morning service, preached and presided at Communion -- we were getting as much value as possible from him on this his last day! For his sermon Simon preached from 2 Corinthians chapter 4 and particularly emphasised verse seven: "But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us."

Simon's sermons do not usually have "three points." But this one did:
1. God is good
2. We are not
3. It will be all right in the end -- not by chance but because of God's undeserved love to us. He has plans for us -- for good.

At the end of the service, Paul Webster, the churchwarden, on behalf of the congregation, presented Simon and Jennifer with gifts from the congregation -- a painting of St Paul's church and a cheque. Paul expressed how much Simon's ministry had meant to the congregation and wished him and Jennifer well in Islington.

After coffee, people regathered in the church building where tables had been set out and a magnificent meal had been prepared. We all lingered over the meal as people were reluctant to bring to a close this fitting mark of the end of an exciting era.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010


“Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles hands” Acts 8:18
I didn’t see the point of confirmation at first. The wonderful life of following Jesus seemed complete without this ceremony. I knew the Holy Spirit, I shared in the body and blood of Christ regularly and I had already been baptised. When the opportunity arose to be confirmed I thought about it and prayed about it but I was still unsure. In the end I was resigned to the fact that with some aspects of Christianity you only see the purpose after the event. So I asked to be confirmed. The service took place at St Thomas the Apostle in Wigston on Tuesday the 8th 2010 and was more elaborate to what I was used to, being in the high church tradition. We reaffirmed the vows made on our behalf at baptism and then were prayed for by the Bishop. This was a highly individual prayer, where the bishop placed both his hands on your head as he prayed. This combined with the prayers and support of a small army of friends that had trooped down from St Pauls made the moment touchingly significant. Then I realised the point of confirmation. Those that follow Christ are called into the service of loving one another and helping each other grow in our relationship with God. This was the fulfilment of that calling and by being confirmed I was allowing the symbolic and very real sharing of the Holy Spirit. I wasn’t just entering into a family of the Church as a formality; I was being welcomed home and a party was being thrown on my behalf. It was a welcome, it was a sharing, and it was a confirmation that the Holy Spirit is active and sets to work as soon as we invite him into our lives. DR DAVID BOYCE

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Moving on

It's been quite a while since my appointment to the Parish of St Mary, Islington, was announced. Long good-byes are never easy and while it's been good to talk with lots of people in recent months about our big move to London, it's something of a relief to be almost there.

My last Sunday service will be on 20 June at St Paul's. It will be a special and somewhat sad occasion for me. I am hugely grateful for these seven happy years and there are many people to thank, much to recall, and lots to appreciate. We've seen our church congregation grow in numbers by about a quarter, so that our average weekly attendance over a full year is now one hundred adults, plus children. There's been plenty of growth in other ways and I recognise how I've grown in these last seven years. I shall never forget the lessons that I've learned from the examples of a congregation that is faithful, generous, prayerful and willing.

In the wider community, many people have asked me who my successor will be and were a little surprised to learn that the Church doesn't make arrangements for continuity in the same way as businesses and other organisations. Instead of a simple handover to a new vicar, there is likely to be a long vacancy. This will undoubtedly stretch the ministry team but I am very confident that things will go forward in the care of wise and gifted colleagues.

In the old way of looking at parish ministry, the awful notion of "interregnum" described a difficult period when everything went on hold, pending the arrival of a new vicar. I hope this outdated and inaccurate word won't be used in the coming months. Today, we understand how responsibility for ministry is shared by the whole church community. The job of a full-time ordained minister is to serve, stretch and animate the local church in its mission for God. A vacancy can be a time of growth and I'm looking forward to learning how the gaps created by my departure allow an even greater flourishing of the church.

It's clear to me that we need to embrace more wholeheartedly the patterns of ministry that can be traced in the New Testament. The early Church was under pressure and stretched, without the protection and comfort that the wealth of Christendom brought about in later centuries. In some ways, it's a picture we recognise in the UK today. In this exciting but vulnerable period, the Church learned that ministry is essentially corporate, that the initiative is always with God's Spirit, and that the partnership between itinerant apostles and indigenous church leaders is precious. Vicars today are more likely to be called to the kind of task that those travelling apostles undertook - teaching, equipping, encouraging - and then moving on, entrusting the church to local leaders who find ways of living out the gospel in their context and culture. In this pattern, vicars will come and go, but the continuity of worship, service, prayer and growth in mission belongs to the whole people of God.

Whoever the next Team Vicar will be, I pray that he or she will receive the same loving encouragement and generous forgiveness that you have shown me. Thank you! Simon