APCM - Vicar’s remarks 2017
I begin with putting on record my admiration for Judith who has navigated a very challenging year for herself, Alex, the family and us all as she has endured all that has been required to get her back to health. Also my thanks to Judith for her support, help and guidance through the periods this has been possible when we have shared the priestly roles and responsibilities within the Parish and beyond its bounds.
Related to this I would like to mark the support through this challenging year from all but at this stage to the rest of the Ministry team. Elizabeth, Chris, Tony, Frances, Richard and Carol have ensured our leadership in the gospel is consistent, effective, informed and I pray offered with an appropriate amount of humour. Individually I trust you are able to reflect and acknowledge to yourselves just how much support you have offered to me personally. Thank you.
I’m also thankful that the parish has been supported by clergy who are based elsewhere Geoffrey Parsons, Burton Parish, Jacky Wise and Alan Leach, Heswall Parish as well as Adrian and Pat’s continued support whilst continuing also to be a blessing to many other parishes. I am heartened that Adrian is now well on the way to good health after necessary medical attention earlier this calendar year.
You may all know by now that my quest is that we double in number. Whilst as an acid test in attendance but along the way also in depth of faith, this year there has been much to be encouraged by as attendance and representation from a range of age groups has moved in a positive way. This has been both within our services as well as activities across our churches.
The flow and order of our worship together comes about with the guidance of our Churchwardens and Deputy Churchwardens. Again I give thanks for their diligence as this is carried out amongst many other duties.
Doreen and Don have carried out their specific roles and responsibilities being a blessing to the Parish and especially to me. This year’s quest has been to bed in what is in place, as we develop our relationship with our community though our community being increasingly happy to Drop In and feel at home, but also for us all to deepen our faith.
Don has taken back up the role of Churchwarden, his experience and knowledge have been allowed to inform us all. We benefitted very quickly from this with a widely enjoyed Archdeacon’s Visitation at Bebington. I pray we will build on this momentum later this week when appropriate officers of the Church attend this years’ service at St Saviours Church, Oxton on Thursday evening.
Doreen needs a special mention this year as she steps down after 10 years’ service as Churchwarden within the Parish. The quiet influence of Doreen is felt in many ways throughout the Church’s ministry around Neston Parish. I pray many of her gifts and abilities will continue to bless what we do and where changes are made others will step in to cover important roles and information flows that underpin the efficiency and effectiveness of the Church.
Thank you Doreen for all the support you have given me so far during my incumbency here in Neston. I pray that will continue as I pray your ministry within the parish continues though in a slightly changed way. I believe that not only we but also God is blessed by all that you do within the Church and within the community.
We have such a myriad of activities and ministries within this Parish and I want to offer thanks for all of this and all who make all this happen. This is not an exhaustive list of thanks but I offer thanks to all.
Our Parish Church Council members including the Treasury team supported so wonderfully by our Independent Examiner, Ben Morris; Our Drop In teams, as well as supporting the ministry of Neston Foodbank, Sunday Clubs, Youth Teams, Gift Groups, Our Choirmaster, Choir and Organists, Bellringers; John along with the Magazine and Publicity teams, Terry and the Parish Website, Miles and the Bereavement Group team, Pat and the Mother’s Union, Shirley, Frances and the Knit and Natter group, Social Events Team, Lucy and the Flower Arranging Team, The Guild of Health and St Raphael, Christian Aid representation and fundraising, Pastoral visitors meeting baptism families and those who are ill or isolated many of whom do this with little knowledge of anyone else. Lynne and the finance team, recording and moving finances about, as well as those guiding PCC on where Charity Allocations are allocated; Christmas and Summer Fair teams.
All of this has an impact on our community as we through living out our ministries speak of Christ through our actions. I pray our words about our desire to do such things are infectious for others to do likewise.
A moment within my words also to acknowledge those who have left our congregations over the last year to join God’s nearer presence. I / we pay our respect and acknowledge our brothers and sisters in Christ who have contributed significantly to the life of the Church and those who have supported such ministries. We remember and we give thanks for knowing one and all.
Turning my attention on initiatives over the last year one of the surprise success stories has been Knit and Natter. The Craft Group morphed into Knit and Natter in December of last year. A change of leadership and a change in focus happened around the same time of the year. The change in name appears to have been the beginning of the success story although a lot of invitations to come along and join in have been an important part in the growth of the group. A drop of sherry early on has, it seems to me, added to the relaxed atmosphere within this group who are knitting various items for the benefit of others. Hats for Seaman who are from warmer climates, blankets and hats for Arrowe Park Neo-Natel Unit and brightly coloured jumpers for babies in need in Africa have been a focus so far but other initiatives are in the pipeline.
The Youth Drop when I spoke last year we believed would peter out at some point as the weather became warmer. This was not the case and continued to gain strength right up to the summer break. We have learnt over the year the importance of breaks during school holidays. This in part is due to the young people’s changed routines and also so that we remain as fresh as possible to minister to those who come along. Attendance has risen to into the thirties though we would say the group is most effective when attendance is between the mid-teens to mid-twenties. Some of the feedback has been truly heart-warming. We do need your help so please speak to Mal Hattersley or myself if you would like to be a part of this initiative. Officers and leaders within our local community recognise what an important initiative this is.
Gift Groups are now well established as part of Church life. The numbers attending groups continues to impress and all who go along or join a group benefit greatly from the growth in faith they offer.
St Michael’s Sunday Club has an established and healthy core of children in weekly attendance I am very encouraged by the momentum of the club and all age attendance at St Michael’s. St Thomas’ Sunday Club is now also well established and feeding into some wonderful all age Sunday Praise services. I pray the year ahead will surpass our expectations of all our Sunday Clubs potential.
The Toddler Group at St Michael’s and Stay and Play at St Mary and St Helen’s have both been a blessing to each other. Whilst the Toddler Group has been established over many years under wise leadership, Stay and Play has now bedded into the life of the Church and also the life of our local community of young parents and also grandparents. Again this is ministry that needs your support both with prayer and as part of the team. Please speak to Angela Klabou or myself if you feel called to be a part of this ministry.
So the year ahead, firstly I am pleased to have Judith back and increasingly established as part of the ministry team. In July we will welcome Josh, Ashleigh and Abigail Askwith to the Parish after Josh is ordained as Deacon and becomes a Curate within Neston Parish.
I have not noted so far a change to Tony Cooke’s ministry which is being worked through at the moment. As Tony and Kate change their lifestyle to spending time both in Spain and on the Wirral this is and will change the amount of time Tony is able to minister amongst us. I look forward to later in the year when this pattern becomes clear and Tony continues his highly valued ministry here in Neston.
St Michael’s Jamming Sessions have been very encouraging over the last couple of months. Musicians of the parish have been getting together with music of their choosing and have then just got on with playing much loved music together. A need to create space for musicians to get together has been noticed and the first fruits are promising. I look forward to seeing how this develops over the next twelve months.
Neston Gentleman’s Guild is a new group that is set now to become established within the Parish over the coming months. There is a clear need for such a group and an exciting calendar of events and activities is near to the launch stage. Look out for this and as a call to the men of the Parish I look forward to how this develops. I like the acronym the ‘MG’s ie Men’s Group/Guild, I wonder what the acronym will be in twelve months’ time.
I continue to be keen to develop another Sunday Afternoon worship option. I have spent some time this year working with the key leaders of Stay and Play to help this develop. Some progress has been made but it needs more time than has been available over this rather stretched year. I see this as being one of the next developments within parish life. Do pass on any ideas you may have of what may offer a first foot into worship within the Parish.
I have no doubt that Josh’s arrival will have some impact on what we do within the Parish and I look forward to exploring what this may be. Please do pray for all we do within this busy parish and that we discern the right things to be part of our corporate ministry. So let us pray for each other for another blessed and exciting year ahead.
Rev. Alan Dawson