blackberryThe summer is almost over… not quite… but we can feel it ebbing away. Autumn is on its way and the nights are getting colder and conversations are beginning about the heating.

We are used to this rhythm of change each year and yet we still in some ways find it hard. Coming to terms with the fact that nothing stays the same for ever is one of life’s hardest tasks. September (my birth month) always brings new beginnings. Every child and young person moves up a year at school or college and everything from new pencil cases to new uniforms to new friends are acquired. It can be an exciting time of change.

Here in our community, just like nature, we are entering into a new season of life together and while daunting there is much to anticipate. Luke has been able to fund, recruit and appoint a new team to join him in the work of LIFE365 deepening our connection with families through the children and young people of the area. We are excited about the new chaplaincy posts that have been created and pray for Laura and Gwen. Mark has helped us evaluate and plan for the next stage of life at Rose Cottage and we are looking to appoint a new Kitchen Manager from October. Over the last few weeks work has begun on redecorating the upstairs of Rose Cottage in readiness for us to relocate the staff offices there and for the centre to become a stronger hub for us as a church. Connections and relationships through the Rec House are blossoming and Andrew Lawrence (Mark’s brother) has run an amazing project this summer helping young people write, perform and record their own songs.

As we look further forward we know that we need to complete the redevelopment and renewal of the building that we have been gifted. Much has been happening behind the scenes on this regard and we are going to be entering a new season of fundraising and development as we finalise our plans together and take our next steps.

In all these areas of life we can see that we are entering a new season of life as a church. Exciting. Daunting. New. Like the feeling you get at the beginning of a new term.

All new things bring loss with them too. A new child takes away those evenings when it was ‘just the two of us’. A new house means new problems to solve, new decorating to take on and new neighbours in exchange for old. A new job means leaving your old familiar workplace and embracing a new team, a new task, a new community.

It will be the same for us in our changing situation. It is inevitable. We won’t be able to avoid it. Entering a new season will inevitably mean some old things will be left behind. Over many months I have been reflecting and praying about our Sunday services (I’m always doing this actually) and I believe it is the right time to draw us back together to one main service each week and only having one early morning service a month. I know that this is hard, that it is a loss, but am convinced that we need each other more than ever at this time of change.

What matters in all this is us having a shared goal, a shared vision. ‘Being united with one heart and mind’ – just as the early church were. Jesus has always been the glue that holds us together as a church rather than social background or age or class but in these days ahead our unity will be challenged even more as we walk together into a new season. We will have to work hard at being united around him. We will be tempted to give up on each other.

As well as Jesus, it will be a shared sensed of mission and purpose that will hold us together through this time. I am unashamed about reminding us all that the reason we exist as a church community – the reason St Michael’s exists – is to participate in God’s mission to the people who live here. As a church we are caught up in God’s story (HIS-story), not ours, and we have been commissioned by Jesus to make disciples, embodying, proclaiming and demonstrating his message of good news.

Our context is Twerton and our goal is to see more and more men, women and children in Twerton find Life in Christ. This is our mission, our purpose, our reason for existence.

We are mindful that we are an Anglican Church and this gives us a history, a liturgy, and a tradition to start from, it gives us a specific role in the community and offers us numerous opportunities. It also brings with it various obligations, expectations and responsibilities, and it also brings with it a number of challenges.

All this is good. It is who we are. Who God has called us to be.

I believe God is leading us into a new future – linked to the past, but different from it. Our future is to be a church of new Christians, to be a growing church, and a younger church. Our future is to be a church that is rooted in the locality with a mission to the locality. Our future is to be a church of small groups, a church of deep relationships and strong connections. Our future is to be a church that is outward looking, reaching out to 100’s of people every week whether through LIFE365, the REC HOUSE, ROSE COTTAGE or through our own natural relationships with our neighbours.

I believe our future is to be a church that trains and equips people – interns/students/new Christians/future leaders. I believe it is to be a church that expresses itself in vibrant, charismatic and engaged worship with a deep spirituality. Our future is to be a church that models reconciliation and forgiveness, a maturing church that is committed to supporting one another in our discipleship, and which communicates strong and relevant teaching. Our future is to be a diverse church of wounded sinners – open to all but seeking transformation of all. A community of both invitation and challenge.

In all this I believe it is important to know that it is God’s desire for this to happen through us. Not despite us, but through us. God wants to grow his church here in Twerton through us, small and vulnerable though we are. His desire is to grow his family through his family. He wants to use us, the poor in spirit, the weak, the vulnerable, the broken. He wants to grow his family through us, his family here. Brothers and sisters, we are entering a new season together, a new term. Of course we are feeling the mix of emotions that come with any new season – trepidation, excitement, nervousness – all mixed together.

Let us hold firm together, walk together, re-unite ourselves around our shared Master and around our shared vision. Let us recommit ourselves to build, to work, to pray, to give, for this vision to come about. Let us enter this new season with hope and confidence. For God is with us. We may face challenges on every side, but the one who has overcome the world is with us and will never leave us or forsake us. And in him we are more than conquerors.