A striking adornment of the Temple in Jerusalem was a large representation in gold of a vine which symbolized God’s chosen people and it has been suggested that Jesus’ words I am the vine reference this physical feature.
The life of a parish and its church similarly combines the spiritual and physical. This building and our presence within it is a statement to the community we serve, our annual meeting is a review of practicalities, while also a time for vision.
It is a moment in an ongoing process. Cultivation of the vine produces the grape from which is produced the wine, but even that is not the final aim. Surely the goal is for the sharing of wine to create togetherness to end in celebration. There is a Latin saying’in vino veritas’ meaning partaking of wine may loosen the tongue to speak openly. Truth is seen and expressed best in shared experience. Our church community should always be a forum for openness and a corporate vision.
I want to thank everyone for their various contributions to our life together this year, but in particular we have welcomed Lesley Luff to the role of Safeguarding Representative, Kay to reprise the PCC secretary role and Louise, for the first time on the PCC. The last 12 months has also seen the loss of such stalwarts as Hugh Taylor and Janet Wise reminding us of a tremendous heritage and hopefully inspiring the younger generations. Our electoral role stands at 125.
As she is only a few weeks into the role I haven’t asked Lesley to prepare a report, but suffice to say that the issue of safeguarding especially historic failures in the C of E has been highlighted nationally by the Gibb Report, the ongoing inquiry which heavily criticised the Diocese of Chichester, to say nothing of the PR disaster around the case of former Bishop George Bell. These matters will not be going away any time soon, but the hope is that we learn positively from them.
Part of the growing, learning process involves pruning, cutting away the unfruitful for greater flourishing. We have now moved 18 months away from the effective split from Colgate by which Rusper became a separate benefice, a single ecclesiastical parish. This seems long enough to have got the measure of the situation and be looking forward.
We also need to be putting resources inand we have heard of the continuing financial challenge. To borrow an infamous phrase we don’t have a magic money tree, but in this part of the Lord’s vineyard we have his grace and our resources to fulfil his vision, grow and renew faith so that there is a vintage for generations to come.
As the Archdeacon guided us through the review process she encouraged us to think of a forward plan; a five or even ten year strategy.
What about a good old Church of England compromise? In 2025 we will be celebrating 170 years of the rebuilding of St MM. A seven year plan would take us there. The building is an indispensable part of our heritage, so how can we extend its use as a place of welcome and mission?
We have been talking about a toilet for some while now and that discussion has stalled. I believe we need to think beyond that to a bigger picture, especially as this year we will seek to appoint a new architect following Richard’s retirement.
The primary purpose for which this building was restored by our Victorian forebears was of course to nourish prayer. During the past year we focussed on making our October services occasions for inviting newcomers. The PCC also proposed dropping MP as an experiment on the last Sunday of the month, balancing this out by more one off special occasions such as the Pet Service. Nationally the 11 days of prayer between Ascension and Pentecost next month are something for us to participate in, and I hope to be able to talk about this in a little more detail next Sunday. Locally, please do contribute to our Rusper Prayer book, which it would be good to have completed by All Saints Sunday in November.