It’s that time of year again when we meet to review the past year and look ahead with hope and prayer.  Here is an extract from our Annual Report from Richard

Rector’s Report

In last year’s report, I tried to encapsulate or summarise 2015/16 as a ‘New Chapter’. I had the sense that God was gifting us with new vision and new energy and I highlighted four specific areas where this was evident:

  • A new vision for our growth – seeing our church family grow to over 150 disciples
  • A new vision for our building – UNLOCK / HEART / EVERYONE
  • A new vision for discipling children, young people and families
  • A new vision for our administrative structures

And I wrote this:

God is moving among us and I sense a new breeze blowing bringing about a new culture of expectation and life.  As I reflect on this I see God changing the culture of the church in the following ways: 

  • From recipient to giver
  • From meeting needs to disciple-making
  • From hesitancy to invitation
  • From isolated to connected

How accurate were these?  Was I right in my intuition?  Have we seen things develop in these areas, and if so how?

A vision for growth

Tory and I have been in leadership here for 12 years now and over this time our church family has grown, matured and changed in significant ways.  For example, consider how far we have come in our missional work with children and families, our youth work, and in our engagement with local families and children through the school.  Think about the impact of Rose Cottage and the development of the Rec House.  Reflect on our attention on discipleship and disciple-making, on the way we worship together on Sundays and mid-week, on the development of leaders, on our levels of giving, on the administrative structures we have developed, on our finances and fundraising, and on the engagement in prayer throughout the year. There are many ways of measuring impact but in every area of church life we have been changing and growing.

We are grateful for all this, and yet, we also know that the numbers of disciples we have made, baptised and taught has been small – especially when we think of the 8000 people who live in our parish.  We also know that the mission here in Twerton is hard work.  Growth is uneven and being community together is hard work and demanding.  Just keeping going sometimes feel a victory all its own.  Indeed, it is.  Just being here is a sign of God’s grace on us.  We all know that we have an enemy that is always ready to steal, kill or destroy.

I have noticed that talking about growth is challenging.  It can push an emotional button in us and make us feel bad or judged.  I’ve also noticed how hard it is to keep believing in growth.  It is easy to gradually lower our expectations and get used to things as they are.  And lastly, I have noticed that because growth means change we find experiencing growth challenging.

But over the last few years, as we have deliberately prayed into this and I believe a new vision and belief for growth is emerging as many of us are finding ourselves more expectant and hopeful.  Faith is rising.  2016 was a year when new visions strengthened in every area of church life.  Signs of this are all around; the confidence we showed as a church to employ Mark as Associate Minister and to fund his salary from our own resources rather than simply from elsewhere; the boldness of our vision in developing Gwen’s role to help us as families; the commitment we made to investing in young people through employing Rob and having faith to believe for someone filling the role would want to be part of the family; the investment in prayer, not just throughout the year, but in a special prayer week initiated by Lucy and Bronwyn and the investment in learning how to become more evangelistic and invitational through our mid-week ‘Deeper’ sessions that have lead on so beautifully to our Alpha course this term.  We have not cracked it yet but we are becoming more invitational all the time and our focus on making disciples as our primary goal is bearing fruit.

With all this in mind this we will keep going, praying into all that God is leading us into believing that God’s future for us is better that all that we have seen so far.  We recommit ourselves to the vision of seeing our church family grow to 150 adults

A vision for a renewed building

An aspect of this gift of faith for us has been concerning our building.  Over the years, faith and confidence that we will be able to repair, renew and reorder our main building given our resources has been extremely low.  Indeed, I might describe it as smaller than a mustard seed.  We have been overwhelmed by the scale of the problems we face and our fears of change have restrained us moving forward.  But over the last two years this has been changing.  Not that I would now describe ourselves as fully confident of all that God is promising for us but I believe that we have turned a corner.  Once again, as in all areas, this is contested ground and even when we make plans we have had to face disappointments in being able to take them forward.  But as we look ahead and share a vision together of how the whole site can be developed and renewed for the mission God is drawing us into I believe that we will be stunned and amazed in how God provides for his work here in Twerton.  It will be a story that we will tell our grandchildren!

2017 will be a significant year for us in this.  As a PCC, we have discerned a way forward that is adventurous and bold.  Our architects have given us an exciting and complete plan for the whole site – the main building, the Rec House, the church yard and all the gardens – and we will be sharing this in the months to come, not just with each other in the church family but also with our local community.  We are moving forward in faith – not based on what is seen but on what has been promised.  It will be an exciting and challenging journey for us all but its impact will be truly significant. 

We know that we won’t be able to change everything in one go.  The scope of the work is too large for this and so we are adopting a staged approach.  Our first stage is to create momentum and share the vision as widely as possible.  We need to engage with the vision of the project together and to seek out the energy and commitment of others from across the city.  In the coming months, as our first step in this, we will be embarking on a temporary reordering the main church building to open it up and dramatically increase its functionality both as a worship space and as a space for community, discipleship and mission. 

All of us will notice these changes.  We recognise that for some of us these changes will be hard as we let go of the way things have been for so long.  Together, however, just as it was with Nehemiah rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem all those centuries ago, I believe we will see God do so much more than all we could possibly ask for or imagine.

We recommit ourselves to a vision of seeing our premises renewed and refreshed and revitalised in readiness for all that God is doing and going to do here in Twerton.

A vision for discipling children, young people and families

One of the most dramatic areas of growth and change that we have experienced in our church family over the last decade has been in the area of children, young people and families.  This has been intentional and it has been an area we have invested in significantly over a number the years.  Through the generosity of people, we have been able to employ Gwen as our Children and Families worker and Rob as a youth worker but the focus on discipling families impacts on all staff.  Mark is very engaged in the life of the school and oversees Gwen, Rob, and Nathan’s work.  Nathan serves the wider community but there is a developing mission to families and children through Rose Cottage and   Joel oversees Children’s work on Sundays as well as the Rec House.  All of us are invested in seeing families become houses of prayer and places which nurture our children in the ways of the Lord. 

We are learning much in this area together and we have much still to learn.  We need to be even more intentional if we are going to see a whole new generation of children and families come through to faith and to remain committed to Christ for the rest of their lives.  Family life is constantly under threat in our culture and it is an area where we find most personal challenge.  As a church, we need to continue to support one another in parenting, discipling and mentoring our children and young people.  This will be a challenge for us. 

We are aware of the challenges so many children in Twerton face but, despite the personal cost to us as we respond, we recommit ourselves to the vision of seeing children and young people finding life in Christ as a launch pad for the rest of their lives and as changemakers of the future.

A vision for new administrative structures

Houses built on sand fall flat when the rain comes down and the floods rise.  Administration was one of the first needs of the early church as things grew and we are no different.  Over the last few years we have recognised that every area of church life has needed an update in our administrative structures and support – our finances, the safety of our children and young people, our line management of staff, our health and safety, our responsibilities as a charity handling significant amounts of money, our communication, the maintenance and upkeep of our buildings.  All this takes time and we are all indebted to the often-hidden work of those who toil away at this for us.  Jennie in the office, Rae and Tim as Church Wardens, Shelley as Treasurer, Ann as Safeguarding Officer.  The staff team have all had to develop the administrative structures that are needed in their own areas and I am so grateful to them for taking this aspect of their work so seriously. 

In this area of our life as a trust we continue to be a work in progress.  Much has been achieved this year and I am particularly grateful to the work of Shelley in preparing the accounts as Treasurer.  We are all indebted to the hours you have put in on our behalf this year and we are very grateful.

We recommit ourselves to generously giving to the vision of seeing hundreds of people becoming disciples and our whole community transformed by God’s loving rule – giving in time and money to the mission of God her in Twerton

Every one of us living and telling the story

Being a disciple is an everyday thing.  It is marked by countless invisible decisions hidden from view.  Our life in Christ is a gift of grace but we co-operate with the Spirit in working out our salvation in growing in knowledge of him, by deepening our dependency on him and by actively obeying him in how we live.  As a church family, we spend a few hours each week in worship, prayer, conversation and learning together and we continue to invest in this weekly habit that is the foundation of our life in Christ.  But our true vocation is lived outside the walls of our church building in the dish-washing, the dog-walking and the day job.  Our ambition to make the main thing the main thing remains – to be a community that ‘lives and tells’ the story of Christ in every aspect of our lives – in all we say and do.  Our Bishops – Peter and Ruth – are leading us deeper into this vision and this life.  Let us commit ourselves once again to this goal of living as whole-life disciples, making a difference wherever we are, and in whatever we do. 

We recommit ourselves to living and telling the amazing story of Christ and his power to change lives and make all things new.

Goals and ambitions for 2017/18

Making and growing whole-life disciples

  • Maximising the impact of our connections through Rose Cottage, The Rec House and the Junior School
  • Exploring the ‘Art of Neighbouring’ together
  • Deepening our culture of invitation – running at least one, possibly two, Alpha Courses
  • Equipping one another for our living and telling the story on our frontline
  • Investing in mid-week small groups
  • Making the most of Sunday mornings – for discipling children, young people and adults
  • Further deepening our commitment to gathering for prayer and worship
  • Starting an Internship Programme

Strengthening our structures and systems

  • Initiating the first phase of the Building Project
  • Running a giving and fundraising campaign securing resources for ministry and mission
  • Maintaining high levels of oversight and management of staff and volunteers
  • Investing in key leaders

Thank you!

Lastly, as always, I want to say thank you.  Thank you to each and every one of you for the love and care and attention you give to serving Christ, to the staff team for your passion, humour and generosity, to all those with leadership roles in the church family, to those who serve us on Sundays in countless ways, to those who make sure that people are noticed and cared for, to those who give their attention to others and listen, to those who pray for the church week in and week out, for those who make jokes and make others smile, and to those who check the bins and tidy things away.  I am so grateful for everything.  Church is a family and we belong to one other.

And above all I am grateful to God for my dearest friend, my wife, Tory.  I am indebted to her above all.  Sharing the vision and reality of ministry here in Twerton with her means everything to me and I love her.